James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. June 30 1:23 P.M. EDT
Good to see you.
Good afternoon. Good to see you, too. Okay, it is so great to welcome back our Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan. He's here to talk more about the bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, which includes the largest investments in the nation's clean water infrastructure, including funds needed to eliminate and replace 100 percent of lead water pipes and service lines.
Across the country, pipes and treatment plants are aging, and polluted drinking water is endangering public health. Studies show that ki- — for kids, higher exposure to lead negatively affects academic performance and can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life.
The investments in water infrastructure in the framework are unprecedented and also include funding to modernize waste water systems across the country, including in rural areas and on Tribal lands.
He also just came from the President's meeting on wildfire preparedness with western governors as well.
And after that, we'll do a full briefing. As always, I'll be the bad cop when we're ready to take questions and he needs to go. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Jen. Good afternoon. I just came from the President's meeting on wildfires with western governors. The increasing intensity of wildfires and heat out West is a major public health challenge. President Biden is bringing leadership and resources — the resources of the federal government to help those on the frontlines in our western states.
I briefed the President and his team on what EPA is doing to help keep people safe. The EPA has developed tools to help provide the public with reliable information to inform and protect people when wildfire smoke is causing dangerous air quality issues in their communities.
As part of the administration's broader efforts to improve wildfire preparedness, EPA is deploying additional new sensors in heavy-smoke areas to assess air quality. We will be adding the Fire and Smoke app [Map] to the AirNow mobile app next month so that firefighters, families, and people throughout communities in the West can take action to reduce their exposure.
You can learn more about this resource tracking smoke and air quality at AirNow.gov/fires and visit Ready.gov/Wildfires to learn about actions you can take now to prepare for wildfires and stay safe.
You know, this is one powerful example of why we need to do more to rebuild our infrastructure that wi- — that can withstand the impacts of climate. Because as wildfires rage out West, floods are consuming communities elsewhere.
The extreme weather events Americans are experiencing year-round underscore the need to make bold investments needed to tackle the climate crisis. The bipartisan Infrastructure Framework would make the largest investment in American history — nearly $50 billion — in the resilience of the physical and natural systems.
Breathing air and drinking clean water are at the heart of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda because he believes no family, no child should be still drinking water from lead pipes. Water infrastructure is a huge part of the President's American Jobs Plan, and it's carried through in the bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, and for very good reason.
Clean and healthy drinking water, and safe and effective stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, is necessary for every thriving community. Yet, as you see here on the screen, there are still an estimated 6 to 10 million lead service lines that need to be replaced all across the country.
In the few months since I've started this job, I've had the chance to hear directly from communities and visit water infrastructure sites and programs all around the country.
In St. Louis, Missouri, where there are still an estimated 28,000 lead service lines, I visited a drinking water plant that is more than 100 years old. The director there told me that we need to invest in our water infrastructure before it's too late.
In Illinois, where there are 400,000 lead service lines just in the Chicagoland area, I heard from people who are struggling to address the urgent need for lead pipe replacement. We know that low-income people and communities of color are disproportionately at risk when it comes to lead-contaminated drinking water.
And last week in Baltimore, I had the privilege of meeting with the young folks who are joined — who joined a job training program that are now successfully working in water infrastructure jobs.
Getting clean and healthy drinking water to people isn't a political issue. It isn't a partisan issue. It's an American issue. Access to clean, safe drinking water is fundamental to protecting all people regardless of — regardless of ZIP code or how much money they have in their pockets.
And that's why the bipartisan Infrastructure Framework makes a transformational $55 billion investment in our nation's water infrastructure, including the funds needed to replace our nation's lead pipes. This will be the largest investment in clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in American history.
By upgrading and repairing our aging infrastructure, it will ensure people have reliable access to safe and clean drinking water that they deserve. Replacing lead service lines will bring long-overdue progress to overburdened communities that have been disproportionately impacted by exposure to lead in their drinking water.
And by putting dollars into our communities, it will create good-paying union jobs and strengthen the future water workforce of our nation.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is a critical first step to implement President Biden's vision to build back better, enhance our climate resilience, and ensure clean air and clean water. We know that there is more work to be done, which is why the President will continue championing his full American Jobs Plan.
President Biden's leadership on responding to wildfires in the West, building our nation's resilience to climate change, and prioritizing water infrastructure is already bolstering the work for EPA. And I'm grateful to the President, I'm grateful to Congress and the American people for their ongoing bipartisanship support on these very important issues.
All right. (Inaudible.) Go ahead.
Thanks. Sir, in the meeting with the governors — on water rights — was there any discussion of water allocation decisions in the western states with any of the governors today?
No. No discussions there. Basically, we discussed that we're experiencing a very tough wildfire year — upcoming year. We talked about staying very closely coordinated. And the President talked about providing additional resources for resilient infrastructure and water management and forest management.
But was there any discussion about rolling blackouts — rolling blackouts to prevent wildfires? Was there talk about that?
Any other concerns that the governors brought up that — you know, that we need to know about?
Just that we need to work closely — federal and state — leveraging resources, and again, staying in close coordination throughout this fire season — wildfire season.
Courtney, go ahead.
Can you talk about — given you're talking about extreme weather events, like what's happening with the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, can you talk about how that factors into your enforcement strategy at EPA and cracking down on polluters?
Well, what I can say is that we're really laser-focused on these climate change impacts. And so, therefore, we really are deploying our air quality monitoring systems to help folks understand the implications of wildfire pollution. We really are ramping up enforcement in this — in this EPA. We believe that enforcement is a tool in our toolbox that need to be deployed so that we can keep everyone on the right track.
Can you talk about also — I know that EPA is hiring up to a thousand new staff. Can you give an update on how that's going and what areas you're looking to hire in?
We're looking to hire in — really, we had a lot of people leave the agency during the previous administration. What we want to do is continue to build on our scientific integrity, our ability to capture and push data out, and really develop the sound expertise amongst all of our professional classes to inform how EPA does its job and accomplish its mission.
Yeah, thank you for taking my question. Do you support pursuing additional funds, beyond the bipartisan plan and the reconciliation plan, for drinking water in particular?
You know, I think the President has made it clear that he's got ambitious goals laid out in the American Jobs Plan. This water infra- — this Infrastructure Framework is what we're seeing as a first critical step. So, he's got a number of tools in his toolbox, and we're happy that he's going to deploy those tools not only for water infrastructure, but for climate as well.
And could I ask you a follow-up question about what's going on in Florida? The EPA has said that there are particles that could be toxic to people's long-term health, related to the collapse of the building in Florida. Is the EPA making any recommendations or suggestions to try to protect people that are living in the area and, of course, the first responders who are searching the rubble?
We're actively engaged with all of the elected officials on the ground. Our regional offices are deploying air monitoring systems and the latest information to be sure that we keep the public safe.
Are you confident that — that the people that are searching the rubble, that they are getting the protection that they need so that they don't end up like the first responders in 9/11 who, of course, suffered all sorts of long-term health issues?
I'm confident that our agency is partnering with the sister agencies to provide the latest and best information so that those on the ground can govern themselves in a very safe way.
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