Merkley, Wyden Join Colleagues to Introduce “True LEADership Act” to Remove Lead from Pipes and Invest More in America’s Crumbling Water Infrastructure

WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined Senate Democrats to introduce the Testing, Removal and Updated Evaluations of Lead Everywhere in America for Dramatic Enhancements that Restore Safety to Homes, Infrastructure and Pipes Act of 2016, or True LEADership Act (S.2821). The True LEADership Act is a comprehensive plan that recommits the federal government to a critical role in water infrastructure investment, lead remediation and the strong drinking water protections provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Incidents like the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan underscore the dangers that can result when the safety of our drinking water and state of our water infrastructure are not made a priority. The True LEADership Act will have nationwide reach, addressing the public health risks and working to remove lead from our homes, schools, and infrastructure across the country. It will also improve our nation’s water infrastructure, while creating thousands of new jobs.

The bill includes permanent reauthorization of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which was authored by Merkley, and would make available $1.36 billion in funding annually for WIFIA to provide communities across America with low-cost loans to repair and upgrade their water infrastructure.

“It is deplorable that in the year 2016, any American would have to fear lead poisoning from their drinking water,” said Senator Merkley. “This situation is absolutely unacceptable and demands immediate action. I’m proud to join with my colleagues to put forward a serious plan to get lead out of our water, including by making available affordable financing to update and repair drinking water systems across the country through my WIFIA program.”

“Cities in Oregon and across the nation face the challenge of preventing unsafe levels of lead in our drinking water. Congress must act now to avoid another Flint crisis down the road.” Wyden said. “I am glad to work alongside my colleagues to build support for this commonsense plan to keep Americans’ drinking water clean.” 

In addition to WIFIA, reforms included in the True LEADership Act include: 

  • Increasing investments in our water infrastructure, particularly through a new grant program specifically designed for projects that reduce lead in tap water;
  • Establishing a mandatory, nationwide requirement for states to report elevated levels of lead in children;
  • Establishing mandatory testing and notification of lead in water systems;
  • Key reforms to HUD authorities and a new tax credit for homeowners to remove lead;
  • A new grant program for schools to aid children with the effects of lead poisoning;
  • And accelerating development of new water technologies.

This new legislation, through a combination of loans, grants and tax credits, would inject over $70 billion over the next 10 years into water infrastructure and lead relief programs. For every public dollar we invest in upgrading our water infrastructure, our GDP grows by more than $6.

Original co-sponsors of the True LEADership Act include U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

More information on the True LEADership Act, including a section-by-section breakdown of the bill, is available here.