White House Briefing on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Guidebook: Environmental Remediation

March 22, 2022

 

Stephanie Sykes, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure Implementation, White House

A few weeks ago, the White House released a guidebook for state and local governments as a resource for stakeholders and is intended as a roadmap, and it contains the most comprehensive information the White House has to date on the more than 375 programs in the bipartisan infrastructure law. President Biden and the entire team here have made it a priority to make sure that we’re giving all the resources that are needed to make sure that this money hits the ground and reaches all corners of this country. Over $100 billion has been announced, allocated, or headed to states Territories, and local governments. There’s been some key plans and offices that have also been announced. The White House has also announced some public notice periods and that covers a lot of different areas, including clean energy, electric vehicles that will be discussed today. high-speed internet grid modernization lead pipes and paint orphan wells, and most recently, a Great Lakes Restoration announcement.

Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator, Department of the Interior (DOI)

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) makes one of the most significant investments in environmental remediation in the country’s history. There is a pressing need to curtail the impacts of climate change and address legacy pollution. The DOI is investing $16 billion into reclaiming and restoring orphaned wells and abandoned mines. Millions of Americans live within a mile of abandoned mine lands or orphaned wells. The DOI will allocate and distribute nearly $725 million annually to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund over the next 15 years. Allocations are determined based on the number of tons of coal historically produced in each of the states or Indian lands. Abandoned Mine Land (AML) reclamation projects will allow states and tribes to close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstoppable slopes, improve water quality, restore water supplies, abate emergencies, and reduce methane emissions. The Orphaned Well Site Plugging, Remediation, and Restoration program is a new program through which states are eligible for up to $4.3 billion in grants to plug orphan wells. There are $775 million available in initial grants. DOI will release formula grants worth $2 billion. Third phase performance grants will be worth up to $1.5 billion. Federal land managers are eligible for up to $250 million for well plugging and Indian tribes are eligible for up to $150 million. DOI will partner with the Department of Energy and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC).

Jeremiah Baumann, Deputy Chief of Staff, Department of Energy (DOE)

The R&D to Support Orphan Well Plugging is a $30 million technology, research, and development program to help communities across the country better identify and characterize wells. The Clean Energy Demonstration Program on Current and Former Mine Land is a $500 million program focused on current and former mine lands. A range of energy technologies including solar, carbon capture, and thermal, are eligible for demonstration projects on that land. There will be a request for information on this program in the coming months. The $675 million Critical Materials Supply Chain Research Facility: Innovation, Efficiency, and Alternatives program and the $267 million Rare Earth Demonstration Facility: Rare Earth Mineral Security program are focused on bolstering American supply chains for rare earth minerals critical to the clean energy industry. Certain types of mine waste have a high amount of these rare earth elements and these programs would focus on ways to extract those elements during mine cleanup activities. The $6 billion Battery Material Processing and Manufacturing and Recycling Grant programs are broader than just communities that have environmental remediation needs. The $750 million Advanced Energy Manufacturing and Recycling Grant program will benefit coal and power plant communities.

Rachel Lenz, Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Brownfields grants and projects provide for the assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites across the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will increase EPA funding for Brownfields projects from $90 million for competitive grant programs and $15 million a year for non-competitive grant programs for states and tribes to $240 million and $16 million annually for each respective program over the next 5 years. There is a new cost-share requirement with the infrastructure funding. Multipurpose grants allow for assessment and remediation activities within one grant type. The EPA can provide some technical assistance on behalf of a community and perform assessments for the Targeted Brownfield Assessment Program. The Job Training Grant program will provide funding to existing job training programs to do environmental remediation workforce development training. There are technical providers that support different regions across the country and provide assistance to brownfield communities. There is also a nationwide technical assistance provider to support eco-development and brownfields planning and support incorporating equity and global development into redevelopment plans.

Larry E. Douchand, E.S.E, P.E., Director, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $2.5 billion in the superfund program to protect communities from contamination. The first wave of funding will be focused on backlogged construction sites. Next, the EPA will accelerate ongoing construction on dozens of sites and complete immediate construction where feasible. Thirdly, the EPA will start new remedial construction work on projects nearing completion. Roughly 72 million people live within 3 miles of a superfund site. Environmental justice is a top priority of the administration. The EPA will provide technical assistance to help communities participate in superfund framework decisions. Superfund cleanup facilities facilitate job creation and create economic benefits for communities.

 

Q&A:

Sykes asked what options for reducing match requirements or assisting with match requirements are applicable and what are the options for on-the-ground technical assistance to help underserved and overburdened communities apply for these grants. Stachelberg said that match requirements are specific to each program. The DOI has regional teams that provide on-the-ground technical assistance and partner-building capacity. Baumann responded that DOE usually issues 50% matching grants for programs, but it can change for specific programs. Lenz said that matching requirements have been waived for the EPA’s bill funding but are still in place for remediation grants. The EPA provides on the ground technical assistance. Community need is factored into the ranking criteria to better support underserved and overburdened communities.

Sykes asked if there is specific technical assistance for tribes. Stachelberg responded that there is and the DOI has been working to ensure that tribes have access to both resources dedicated specifically to Indian country and other funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Lenz responded that one of the EPA’s technical assistance providers, Kansas State University, does have its own standalone grant specifically for tribes. Baumann stated that the DOE has an Office of Indian Energy Programs that manages a grant program to help tribal nations invest in clean energy projects and provide specialized technical assistance.

Sykes asked how equity is being considered in the administration of these programs. Baumann responded that the administration is prioritizing equity. The DOE opportunity to make sure that these particular programs benefit underserved communities and further the goal of energy justice. Douchand stated that the superfund remedial program is part of President Biden’s Justice40 imitative and prioritizes environmental justice.

Sykes asked how the private sector can partner to help with the implementation of these programs. Stachelberg responded that the administration has urged the DOI to explore private sector partnerships to catalyze economic development while ensuring that funds are distributed equitably.