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Money to fix Alabama water issues may hinge on Biden infrastructure plan


Proponents of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion dollar infrastructure plan are pointing to Alabama’s black belt as one spot that may be harmed if environmental justice money is trimmed from the spending bill. Specifically, supporters say Lowndes County, southwest of Montgomery is a concern. Catherine Flowers serves on Biden’s White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She’s long advocated for clean water and sanitation systems in rural areas. Flowers is concerned for places like predominately Black Lowndes County where many residents have to release their wastewater directly into the environment.

“When people talk about environmental justice, they never talk about sanitation,” Flowers told the AP. “The assumption was that rural communities have always had it, and that’s not true."

Tens of billions of dollars for U.S. environmental initiatives originally proposed in a $3.5 trillion domestic spending package now hang in the balance as Democrats decide how to trim the bill down to $2 trillion. Investments in a wide range of these projects were proposed in the Build Back Better plan, but Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona demanded that the bill be reduced. Manchin is asking for it to be cut by as much as half.

Now, Democratic leaders are trying to bridge divergent views of progressive and moderate lawmakers over the size and scope of the bill. With Republicans in lockstep against President Joe Biden’s proposal, Democrats must hold together slim House and Senate majorities to pass it. Leaders have set a voting deadline on Halloween, but that may slip as they struggle for consensus.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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