President Joe Biden proposes that The highest level of fundingBudget for the Environmental Protection Agency has never been higher. Wisconsin environmental groups and Great Lakes advocates believe that additional funding is needed to address problems such as lead pipes, PFAS contamination, and aging water infrastructure.
Bidens budget asks for $11.9 billionThe EPA received a $2.6 billion increase in funding from the fiscal 2021 budget. The agency had been operating with these funding levels until Congress approved the $9.5 billion budget of the agency through the Omnibus Spending Law earlier this month. As Congress prepares its spending proposal, this proposal marks the start of the debate about the agency’s future budget.
Clean Wisconsin CEO Mark Redsten stated that “if this funding is appropriated it will have an enormous impact on Wisconsin and the investment needed in our state are long overdue.”
Redsten emphasized the fact that the budget provides approximately $4 billionThis funding will be used to upgrade water and wastewater systems. It represents a $1 billion increase over prior funding levels. The proposal also includes a $160 MillionIncrease funding for the agency’s lead reduction program.
Data from the Wisconsin Public Service CommissionIt was found that the state had more 173,000 lead lines owned or maintained by utilities than it did by private owners. Milwaukee alone has approximately 67,000 lead pipes that need to replaced.
John Rumpler from Environment America spoke on behalf of Wisconsin Public Radio, saying that lead pipes can be a major source of contamination in drinking water for schools and daycare centers.
Children are more vulnerableLead poisoning can lead to developmental problems and other health problems. Wisconsin has seen a 25 percent drop in the number of children tested for lead poisoning compared with pre-pandemic levels.
Rumpler stated that Biden’s budget and the billions provided by the bipartisan legislation on infrastructure are a step forward.
Rumpler stated that he hoped that people on both sides will see it as a crucial financial investment for clean water, and the health of their children.
Rumpler, Redsten and others also highlighted the proposal’s increase in funding for research and cleanup of PFAS pollution. These harmful chemicals don’t easily break down in the environment and have been linked to serious health problems, including testicular and kidney cancers.
State environmental regulators are currently investigating PFAS pollution at more than 50 sites in 25 communities including Madison, Madison and Wausau.
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Redsten stated that “Communities across the state are dealing with this new contaminant” and are unsure what they can do to address it. “We need federal standards that represent the most recent science. This funding will provide $126 Million for EPA to improve its understanding of the human and ecological effects of PFAS.
Biden’s proposal calls for the agency to dramatically increase staffing. 1,900 employeesMore than 16,200 federal employees.
Laura Rubin, director at the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition, stated that the investment in staff recognizes employees who enforce environmental laws. She said that her organization is delighted with the record-breaking level of investment by the administration to ensure clean and fair water.
“I think the administration has fallen short in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The budget has been reduced a bit, but the funding boost for reducing lead in drinking and addressing the PFAS crisis is a welcome addition,” she stated.
Biden’s proposal would lead to approximately $8 million lessIn the federal Great Lakes Program’s annual budget, which was $348 million in fiscal year 2018, $348 million was allocated. Biden nonetheless announced that the program would be granted an additional $1 million through the bipartisan infrastructure bill in addition to its annual funding.
The proposed budget would also include $1.5 billion to support environmental justice initiatives of the agency, including Bidens commitment that he will provide 40% of federal funding benefits to communities in need.
Milwaukee Water Commons is interested in federal funding that can help disadvantaged communities, Joe Fitzgerald (the organization’s water city program manager) said. He also noted that a 2020 Needs AssessmentAccording to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, there was a difference of approximately 85 to 100 percentIn Milwaukee, Ozaukee Washington, Waukesha and Washington, there are many white pipelayers, plumbers or steamfitters.
Fitzgerald stated that Milwaukee Water Commons also focuses on employment and pathways to living wage work in the sector. Fitzgerald said that they are seeing the impact of the funds coming into the water sector on communities.
Metro Milwaukee has an estimated 16,472 water sector jobs. Many water-related industries are expected to see higher growth than the national average. Nationally, employment is expected increase by more that 7 percentThrough 2026
Biden’s budget proposal included additional funding for environmental justice programs that would support job creation in communities that have been most affected by pollution.