WASHINGTON – The long-stalled bipartisan energy modernization bill is expected to move forward in the Senate without an amendment that would have provided Flint, Mich. with $220 million to address its ongoing water crisis.
After weeks of disagreement among Senators over the amendment, its sponsors agreed to remove it from the bill Wednesday night.
Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. and Rich Peters, D-Mich., had proposed the water infrastructure aid amendment to The Energy Modernization Act of 2015 in February.
The energy bill was introduced in September by Energy & Natural Resources Committee chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and would improve and create energy efficiency programs. It has been pending before the full Senate.
The water infrastructure proposal would provide $100 million of drinking water state revolving funds to any state facing a water crisis as well as $70 million to back low-cost loans made under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which can be used in conjunction with tax-exempt bonds. It would also provide $50 million toward health programs to treat and prevent lead exposure from contaminated drinking water.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, placed a hold on the amendment in March because of concerns that it would prove too costly. The bill would provide funding to any community facing a water crisis. Lee instead suggested Michigan tap into its $386 million in rainy day funds or its $575 million surplus from 2015 to aid Flint rather than seek federal funding. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Clean Water States Revolving Fund have allotted $24 million and $58 million, respectively, to the state for fiscal 2016, he said.
The Stabenow/Inhofe amendment would have required states to submit a plan detailing how the awarded funds would be spent before receiving any federal assistance.
In a statement released Wednesday, Stabenow blasted Lee for his role in blocking the bill and said she will continue to try and get the Flint aid legislation passed.
“It’s totally unacceptable that Sen. Lee continues to block a vote on our fully paid for, bipartisan agreement to help Flint and other communities across the nation who have a series lead and water problems,” Stabenow said.
Stabenow and Inhofe also are considering adding the Flint package as an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act (H.R. 4470). That bill is pending in the Senate as well. Flint, the seventh-largest city in Michigan, has faced lead contamination in its drinking water for the nearly two years since its water supply was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River, leading Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to declare the city under a state of emergency in January.
A final vote date has not been set for the energy bill.