Over 360 local officials from 34 states call for infrastructure that protects our health and environment
WASHINGTON -- Local officials from across the United States have called on President Joe Biden and Congress to prioritize funding for infrastructure that will make our communities healthier and protect the environment. The local officials released a letter Tuesday, with Environment America and U.S. PIRG, calling for investments in the following key areas: clean water, transportation, clean energy, solid waste, nature-based infrastructure, schools, and broadband. The letter comes amidst Congressional hearings on using infrastructure as part of the President’s plan to Build Back Better, including a hearing on water infrastructure funding scheduled for Wednesday in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
"Mayors know that good infrastructure is the sort of basic government service that impacts citizens’ lives and allows businesses to flourish and prosper,” said Republican Mayor James Brainard of Carmel, Indiana. “But local governments are facing new challenges like severe storms, flooding and tightening budgets due to the pandemic. A strong infrastructure package from our federal government could prevent us from having to choose between fixing our wastewater treatment plans and updating our bridges. "
In November, 2020, Environment America and U.S. PIRG released a report offering a Blueprint for America’s infrastructure plan. The report laid out a vision for infrastructure investments that would bridge political divides and help the country emerge stronger as a nation after the COVID-19 pandemic. The report focused on infrastructure recommendations that could improve and protect public health and our environment.
“Americans are resilient and our infrastructure should be too,” said Environment America Clean Water Advocate Laura Miller. “Unfortunately, too much of our existing infrastructure is rigidly built around asphalt and concrete, making communities more vulnerable to flooding and sewage overflows. By investing in nature-based infrastructure, we can better keep our communities safe from these threats and secure a future with clean water and healthy ecosystems.”
America’s infrastructure weaknesses were exposed by the pandemic. For example, fossil fuel dependence in the transportation and energy sector has caused air pollution that worsened COVID-19 outcomes. Additionally, lead pipes made the drinking water for millions unsafe while isolating at home. Infrastructure investments addressing these weaknesses would help build safer, healthier and more resilient communities across the country.
"If the winter storm taught us anything, it is that we need our infrastructure to be more resilient and sustainable,” said Democratic Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas. “We need to strengthen our electric grid by increasing investments in energy efficiency, solar and storage as emergency sources of power and other clean energy solutions. I'm proud to stand with hundreds of other local leaders in support of a bold vision to address our infrastructure."
Resiliency and sustainability will be critical in the upcoming infrastructure package, as American communities face increased threats from climate change and its impacts, such as severe storms and sea level rise. Whether by strengthening our electric grid or restoring natural areas that can mitigate flooding, our infrastructure must support a healthy future by addressing our nation’s most important challenges.
“Infrastructure touches virtually every aspect of American life. It's at the heart of our greatest challenges, many of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Environment Campaigns Director Matt Casale said. “But simply spending more money isn’t the answer. We need to fund more than shovel-ready projects; we need to make sure those projects are shovel worthy. The projects that we invest in should make American lives better.”