September 12, 2023
Pressley, Warren, Mass. Lawmakers Urge EPA to Reevaluate Steep Cuts to Massachusetts’ Lead Pipe Replacement Funding
“We are very concerned about what this could mean for the Commonwealth, and encourage you to hear the concerns from our communities and our state government and take them into consideration as you review the funding formula.”
WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey and U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-05), Richard Neal (MA-01), James McGovern (MA-02), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Bill Keating (MA-09), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Lori Trahan (MA-03), and Jake Auchincloss (MA-04) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, urging him to reevaluate the methodology used to determine each state’s funding need for lead pipe removal after a 44% cut to lead service line replacement (LSLR) funding to Massachusetts between the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.
“We are writing with concerns regarding the reduction in lead service line replacement (LSLR) funding awarded to Massachusetts, and to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reevaluate the methodology used to analyze the need for safe drinking water in each state across the country,” wrote the lawmakers.
Congressionally-appropriated funds are awarded to states by the EPA through the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF). States then use these awards to support projects that improve water infrastructure and protect public health, like fixing old pipes, improving water supply sources, and replacing or maintaining water storage tanks.
The DWSRF allocation – including an unprecedented $15 billion in funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) towards LSLR specifically – is determined by the Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (DWINSA). The most recent DWINSA was completed in 2021, and, for the first time, included data on lead service lines. This data was then used in the funding determination for FY 2023 LSLR allocations.
However, the lead service line portion of the questionnaire was optional, and most water systems are still in the process of developing service line inventories — therefore those that did respond had to largely estimate the number of service lines in their systems. Given the incomplete nature of this data, the extrapolation from the data provided to calculate expected need for each state is not robust. This skewed data resulted in Massachusetts receiving $32 million less for LSLR projects compared to FY 2022 levels. This threatens access to safe drinking water for residents across the state, especially for those in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. It is estimated that with the current allocation, Massachusetts would lose approximately $112 in funding between 2023 and 2026, including at least $55 million in lost grant funds allocated for disadvantaged communities that need it most.
“We are very concerned about what this could mean for the Commonwealth, and encourage you to hear the concerns from our communities and our state government and take them into consideration as you review the funding formula,” the lawmakers continued. “We understand EPA has stated that while FY23 allotments will not change, the agency will allow for a one-time update of the data and is currently working to provide final guidance.”
“In order to ensure communities across the Commonwealth and across the country are receiving the appropriate funding they need to provide clean and safe drinking water to their residents, we ask that you provide uniform guidance to be followed across the country and review the process that skewed the allocation system,” the lawmakers concluded.
A copy of the letter can be found here.
In April 2021, Congresswoman Pressley reintroduced the Lead Abatement for Families Act, a bill that requires the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to identify and remove lead pipes in public and federally assisted housing. It was originally introduced in July 2020.###