Summer Lee Speaks on House Floor Against Republican Pollution Bill that Would Harm Western Pennsylvanians

Mar 21, 2024
Press

For Immediate Release 

Emilia Rowland, Emilia.Rowland@mail.house.gov – 330.212.2065

Vaibhav Vijay, Vaibhav.Vijay@mail.house.gov – 425.941.7268

Summer Lee Speaks on House Floor Against Republican Pollution Bill that Would Harm Western Pennsylvanians

“Every Member of this body likes to claim to be here to advance the needs of their constituents, but it seems like every day the Republican party tries to tear down the very laws that aim to protect their own constituents as well as mine from corporate polluters pumping toxins into our air and drinking water.”

Pittsburgh, PA — Today, Rep. Summer Lee spoke on the House floor in opposition to House Republicans’ H.R. 7023,  deceptively named the “Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act.”  This bill is a giveaway to corporate polluters, allowing them to freely dump toxins in our air and water without accountability. PA-12 has among the most polluted air and water in the country, and Rep. Lee called on Congress to act further to address the crisis, rather than continue to enable large corporations to continue polluting our environment.

Speaking during debate, Lee said, “every member of this body likes to claim to be here to advance the needs of their constituents, but it seems like every day the Republican party tries to tear down the very laws that aim to protect their own constituents as well as mine from corporate polluters pumping toxins into our air and drinking water. It seems like every day they fight to repeal the investments that are creating thousands of good paying union jobs in our district, lowering our energy bills, and creating a healthy, livable future for our kids. Pittsburgh is the 22nd most polluted city in the nation, and this year was the first year that we didn’t get a ‘Failing’ grade from the American Lung Association, so I know far too well from what happens when corporate polluters are absolved of responsibility and accountability for their actions, which several portions of this bill seek to enable.”

Watch full speech here

Speech Transcript

M. Speaker, I stand today in vehement opposition to H.R. 7023, the Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act. 

It is amusing that we’re having an ‘Energy Week’ conducted by a majority that uses all of its energy to fight against the interests and wellbeing of the American people. This bill is emblematic of the Republican Party that shamelessly prioritizes  the investments of their billionaire donors over the  health of our children, our communities, and our environment — not to mention our economy. 

Every Member of this body likes to claim to be here to advance the needs of their constituents, but it seems like every day the Republican party tries to tear down the very laws that aim to protect their own constituents as well as mine from corporate polluters pumping toxins into our air and drinking water. It seems like every day they fight to repeal the investments that are creating thousands of good paying union jobs in our district, lowering our energy bills, and creating a healthy, livable future for our kids.

Pittsburgh is the 22nd most polluted city in the nation, and this year was the first year that we didn’t get a ‘Failing’ grade from the American Lung Association, so I know far too well from what happens when corporate polluters are absolved of responsibility and accountability for their actions, which several portions of this bill seek to enable.

I am proud to fight against those who seek to endanger our communities – endanger our children – through polluted air and tainted water, just so they can give another handout to the billionaires and big oil CEOs who bankroll their campaigns . I am proud to represent Western Pennsylvania and the City of Pittsburgh, where we’ve worked hard to  remove and replace over 10,000 lead service lines – largely thanks to federal protections and investments these Republicans are trying to repeal. 

The only confidence this bill gives me is that Republicans will take any opportunity to eliminate oversight and safeguards for our environment, and to silence the voices of those in communities who are tired of unbreathable air and toxic water. 

Thank you, M. Speaker. I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose the passage of this legislation, and I yield the remainder of my time.

Background:

Rep. Lee’s action on clean water

  • Last year, Congresswoman Lee helped deliver a $52.4 million loan from the federal government to go toward Water Reliability Plan investments.  
  • Additionally, the House passed Congresswoman Summer Lee’s amendmenthighlighting the need to protect children’s health by increasing funding for testing and remediation of lead contamination in drinking water at schools and child care facilities. This amendment was added to the FY2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
  • In January, Congresswoman Lee announced an additional $32.1 million low-interest loan and grant to Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to continue the aggressive removal of lead service lines throughout Southwest PA’s drinking water system.

Clean Water in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh

  • According to EPA, PA has ~700K lead service lines still in use, the 4th-highest total of any state; ~7.5% of all service lines in PA are lead-based.
  • In total, PA has received ~$659M in IIJA funding for clean water infrastructure.
  • In Jan. 2024, PA Gov. Josh Shapiro announced $194.3M for 28 drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, and anti-contamination projects across 20 counties in the state. That funding includes money from IIJA. 
  • In Pittsburgh, after a coalition of labor, faith, and environmental groups took legal action in 2020, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) agreed to remove all lead pipes by 2026. They are currently more than halfway to achieving that goal and remain on track.
    • PWSA estimates that ~6K public lead service lines remain in their system. PWSA has removed 1,746 public lead service lines and 1,605 private lead service lines since the VP’s visit in June of 2022.

Working with the Administration

  • In mid-February, Rep. Lee welcomed Vice President Kamala Harris and EPA Administrator Michael Regan to the district to announce action to remove lead pipes and improve stormwater infrastructure.
    • The Admin announced $75 M in drinking water funding for PA including replacing lead pipes, improving storm water infrastructure to tackle flooding, and removing contaminants. This is part of $5.8 billion nationwide.  ~50%  can support the removal of lead pipes. This funding is part of the broader $50B+ under IIJA for clean water, but not part of the dedicated $15B IIJA program dedicated to lead pipe replacement. 
    • PA will receive ~$200M of this $5.8B.

Since taking office in January, Lee, who serves on the House Oversight Committee and Space, Science and Technology Committee, has delivered historic levels of federal investment totaling over $1 Billion brought back to Western PA, including over $200 million for infrastructure, over $50 million for affordable transit, and over $500 million to keep clean energy manufacturing at home in Pennsylvania. These investments will help improve Western Pennsylvania’s infrastructure and transit, ensure cleaner air and drinking water, lower housing costs, fund research institutions, fuel clean manufacturing, fund STEM innovation and entrepreneurship, boost workforce development, and create thousands of good paying union jobs.  Lee and her team have also delivered casework and constituent services to over 1,900 constituents with issues ranging from helping our seniors and disabled community access Medicare and social security to helping folks secure housing and helping families with immigration support and passports.

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