Inhofe Statement on Bipartisan Solution for Flint

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today put forward a fully-funded solution to assist the people of Flint, Mich., as well as communities across the nation, facing challenges from aging water infrastructure. The legislation is co-authored with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and cosponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

The legislation was filed as an amendment to S.2012, Energy Modernization Act.  It also is the subject of a request for consent to consider the legislation as an amendment to H.R. 4470, the House-passed bill to aid Flint. This would allow for S. 2012 to move forward and place on the Senate calendar a stand-alone vote on the solution to aid Flint and other communities facing aging water infrastructure.

“My common-sense, fully-funded solution with Sen. Debbie Stabenow helps to increase nationwide funding for Drinking Water Act State Revolving Funds and provide startup funding for the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program.  Using these existing, authorized programs is the fiscally responsible thing to do not only for Flint but also for the entire nation facing a water infrastructure crisis,” said Inhofe. "These programs provide low interest loans to the states, local governments and other water suppliers to help address critical water infrastructure needs, and when the loan is paid back, more communities can receive funding. To further ensure this isn’t just a blank check, our legislation also requires a rigorous plan that explains how the money will be spent before funding is provided.  The funds provided in this bill are fully paid for by cutting funding that subsidizes Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loans for auto companies, a failed program that hasn’t been used in more than a year and has only issued five loans since 2008.

“Most importantly, this legislation is not just about Flint but is about the nation as a whole. The media’s attention to Flint has put a spotlight on the crisis we face across the nation due to a failure to address aging water infrastructure.  As a result of misplaced priorities of President Obama, who has consistently failed to partner with the states to address our nation’s real needs, stories are emerging in East Los Angeles, Baltimore, communities across Ohio, and elsewhere about lead pipes and other infrastructure problems that put the health of our citizens at risk.  In my leadership role on the EPW Committee, I have watched the Obama administration prioritize more than $120 billion for the president’s global warming agenda at the expense of real investment in critical infrastructure. This can clearly be seen in the wasted 2009 stimulus that lined the pockets of his climate donors while only designating 5 percent toward investments in our nation’s infrastructure. Look also at the president’s budget proposals in recent years that have sought to cut funding to critical clean water loan programs while breaking the bank to reengineer the EPA to be a climate agency. My bill changes those misplaced priorities by taking $250 million from a failed program and moving it to where it should have been all along. Just as we successfully showed in the recent highway bill, Congress can and should take necessary action to support the critical infrastructure that keeps Americans safe and makes way for new economic opportunity for our nation.”

As introduced, the legislation would: 

  • Provide $100 million for Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) accessible by any state with a drinking water emergency. The legislation would require a state to submit a plan explaining how the money will be spent to address the emergency before funding is provided.  Funds that remain after 18 months will be distributed to all states under the existing SRF formula.   
  • Provide $70 million in funding to back secured loans made under the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which leverages federal investment up to 60 to 1. A federal investment of $70 million could support secured loans of up to $4.2 billion to address water and wastewater infrastructure needs across the country.  All states and all communities with clean water and drinking water infrastructure needs are eligible for this assistance.
  • Provide $50 million for various in authorized health programs for national use to address and prevent impacts from exposure to lead. 
  • Pay for the funding by reprogramming $250 million from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.