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Infrastructure Investment Bill Passes Congress

Nov. 8, 2021
Long-awaited, much-debated legislation offers $1.2 trillion to improve roads, bridges and communication, with money dedicated to water infrastructure such as replacing lead pipes.

WASHINGTON, DC — On Friday, November 5th, the House of Representatives passed H.R.3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, by a bipartisan vote of 228 to 206. The Senate had already passed the bill back on August 10th by a bipartisan vote of 69 to 30.

Key provisions of the bill include:

  • $110 billion for roads, bridges and other major projects
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
  • $39 billion for public transit
  • $65 billion for public broadband
  • $25 billion for airports to address repair and maintenance backlogs

Specific to the plumbing industry were a long list of important provisions, many of which have been seen by key industry members as long overdue for investment, including:

  • Lead in Drinking Water: Authorizes $200 million in funding to address lead in school drinking water systems. It also includes $11.73 billion for projects directly connected to the identification, planning, design and replacement of lead service lines. 
  • Water Reuse: Includes $1 billion in funding for Western water recycling programs and approximately $48 million for national water reuse programs. It also requires the U.S. EPA to facilitate sharing of information between stakeholders by creating a water data sharing pilot program and directs the agency to create a Water Reuse Interagency Working Group.
  • Water Filters for Disadvantaged Communities: Authorizes $510 million in funding for the Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Drinking Water Grant Program, which helps public water systems in underserved and disadvantaged communities meet Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. The bill includes language that allows for the purchase of certified point-of-entry or point-of-use filters and filtration that will help to remove harmful drinking water contaminants
  • Decentralized Waste Systems for Low Income Households: Creates a new $250 million grant program for the construction of individual and cluster household decentralized wastewater systems for low-income households. This new program is critical to bringing safe sanitation to the 2 million Americans who don’t have access to clean drinking water and a toilet in their homes.
  • New sanitation facilities for Native American Communities: Provides $3.5 billion in funding to the Indian Health Services for construction of safe water, wastewater, and solid waste systems. This represents an unprecedented investment in IHS sanitation that will help resolve the current backlog of projects.
  • Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Contamination: Includes $10 billion to clean up the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. This dedicated funding for PFAS includes:
    • $5 billion to help small and disadvantaged communities address PFAS in drinking water
    • $4 billion to help drinking water utilities remove PFAS from drinking water supplies or connect well owners to local water systems
    • $1 billion to help wastewater utilities address PFAS in wastewater discharges.
  • WaterSMART Grants: Includes $400 million for the Bureau of Reclamation's WaterSMART program, with $100 million of the funds going toward improving existing nature-based projects. WaterSMART projects help increase water efficiency and supply by modernizing and restoring existing infrastructure.
  • Disaster Resilience: Provides $1 billion over five years ($200 million per year) for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program, which supports pre-disaster and hazard mitigation activities, including building code updates, undertaken by states and local communities.
  • Low Income Water Assistance Pilot Program: Directs EPA to launch a pilot grant program to address water affordability. The pilot program will award grants to eligible entities to develop programs to assist low-income households with maintaining access to drinking water and wastewater treatment. Assistance could include discounted rates or direct financial support to households or debt relief to water system owners or operators.

[Click here for a fact sheet on the content of the bill.]

The legislation has been a goal of both political parties since the previous administration. The long delay between its passage by the Senate and now was caused by disagreements between the moderate and the progressive wings of the Democratic party—some on the substance of the bill itself, and some on the substance of another bill (H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act) more geared towards social programs, which is expected to come up for a vote soon. In a final round of negotiations on November 5, concessions were made that allowed the infrastructure bill to finally pass.

On Nov. 6th, Biden held a press conference to express joy and thanks for the passage of legislation. The same day the White House issued a statement calling the legislation a once-in-a-generation bill that will, "create millions of jobs, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, and put us on a path to win the economic competition for the 21st Century."

The legislation was signed into law by President Biden at a bipartisan White House ceremony November 15th.

Reaction Around the Nation

National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Vice Chairman Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey released a joint statement saying in part:

On behalf of the National Governors Association, we applaud House members of both parties as they voted to advance the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package... This vital legislation should be sent to the President’s desk as soon as possible so that states and territories can deploy these crucial infrastructure funds.

They also released individual statements, with Hutchinson saying:

Governors commend Congress for setting aside partisan differences to pass a bill that works for the American people. States stand ready to immediately put these funds to good use to fix and improve our nation’s infrastructure.

and Murphy adding:

Passage of this crucial legislation reminds us that nothing is more important than delivering on the priorities of the American people, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress to find long-term solutions that meet the infrastructure needs of every state.

The NGA was joined by six other organizations, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the International City/County Management Association, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in a joint statement which read in part:

On behalf of the state and local elected and appointed officials that our national organizations represent, we commend House Members of both parties as they voted to advance the bipartisan infrastructure package...

A strong federal-state-local partnership is critical to delivering these investments in every community and this package will provide the investments we need to expand and repair our nation’s infrastructure.

States and local governments know firsthand how important this funding will be to rebuilding and improving our roads and bridges, waterways and ports, transit, passenger rail, water and sewer systems, energy, broadband and telecommunications networks. We look forward to being good stewards of these funds and delivering projects the create sustainable, economic recovery and growth.

Michael Bellaman, President and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors issued a statement from the organization saying:

Passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill creates an opportunity to effectively modernize our nation’s most critical infrastructure, and ABC and our members stand ready to do the important work to bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st century.

However, ABC remains wary of some of the bill’s exclusionary provisions and statements from the Biden administration that could restrict the eligibility of America’s workers to compete for and participate in these construction projects.

(In the same statement, Bellaman offered a harsh evaluation of the Build Back Better Act, calling it "reckless" and urging those in Congress who oppose it to prevent any further vote on the legislation.)

Dennis D. Truax, P.E., President of the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a statement saying:

It is a great day for the nation as the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), fulfilling President Biden’s vision with a historic piece of legislation that will have monumental impacts on the economy, public safety, global competitiveness, and each American’s well-being. Passage of this five-year, $1.2 trillion bill proves once again that the country can lead with infrastructure. 

With this legislation, the federal government will restore their critical partnership with cities and states to modernize our nation’s roads, bridges, transit systems, drinking water pipes, school facilities, broadband, ports, airports and more. Without a strong federal partner, local projects that are community lifelines have hung in the balance, oftentimes being paused or outright cancelled due to funding uncertainties. When this happens, American households and businesses are the ones who pay the price. 

The IIJA is the culmination of decades of advocacy by  American Society of Civil Engineers members who worked tirelessly to educate Congress about the role infrastructure plays in supporting the economy and our quality of life. ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Cards have sounded the alarm on our nation’s infrastructure conditions since 1998, with new reports being released every four years. While all categories of infrastructure have been the cause of some concerns, the common denominator behind each category’s struggles has been a backlog of projects, overdue maintenance, and a need for resilience. This bill includes investments to repair and modernize these critical assets for almost all of the 17 categories in the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which assigned our nation’s infrastructure a cumulative grade of ‘C-‘.

We commend the House for joining the Senate in prioritizing American communities by passing this bipartisan infrastructure legislation and we are encouraged that President Biden has indicated he will sign the bill quickly to ensure our communities receive these long-awaited resources soon, allowing critical projects to move forward. 

Dain Hanson, Executive Vice President for Government Relations at the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) issued a statement saying in part:

Access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation is a basic human right that the plumbing industry strives every day to make a reality... Included in this bill is funding for new and existing programs that will help us to provide life-changing services to communities who need it most.

Plumbing Manufacturers International's CEO/Executive Director Kerry Stackpole issued a statement on behalf of the organization thanking every lawmaker who cast a vote for the legislation, and also saying:

The act sets in motion critical steps to modernize our nation’s aging infrastructure and includes significant investments in our drinking and wastewater systems... Investing in and modernizing our nation’s infrastructure is critical to the long-term economic growth of the country and will vastly improve access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation.

We look forward to the implementation of the IIJA, which will support key public works projects for water systems in most need and provide jobs and economic growth at a critical time... We congratulate President Biden on his efforts to make Build Back Better and infrastructure renewal the centerpiece of his Administration’s first year in office.

The International Code Council's Dominic Sims, CBO, Chief Executive Officer, issued a statement applauding the legislation, citing several key provisions and saying in part:

This Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a significant investment in the safety and resiliency of the built environment... Its commitment to the effective implementation of building energy codes is unprecedented and reflects years of work by the Code Council and other stakeholders. The Code Council looks forward to working with the Administration and its members to ensure that that the promise of these investments is fully realized at all levels of government.

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