New Jersy to get $169M for clean water under Biden’s infrastructure law

New Jersy to get $169M for clean water under Biden’s infrastructure law. The $1 trillion infrastructure law signed last month by President Joe Biden will include $168.9 million for New Jersey next year to begin replacing lead water pipes and addressing drinking water contamination, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The new law includes funding to get rid of every lead water pipe, a project that in New Jersey alone will cost an estimated $2.3 billion to replace 350,000 lead service lines, according to the American Water Works Association.

Newark residents in August 2019 started lining up for bottled water because of high lead levels, and other communities also have reported contamination. The state Legislature has passed legislation requiring that every lead water pipe be replaced.

“Funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law is already making its way to New Jersey,” said House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist. “Safe drinking water is a basic human right, yet right now millions of American families cannot trust the water coming out of their taps.”

In addition, the EPA allocation includes funding to address drinking water contamination caused by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS.

PFAS do not easily break down naturally, allowing them to build up in the environment and in humans. They have been linked to cancer and other diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Much of the contamination was found around Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurt, where such chemicals were used in firefighting foam.

Previous groundwater testing there found PFAS levels up to 264,000 parts per trillion, making it one of the most contaminated sites in the nation, according to the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization.

The state in January sued the federal government to help cover the costs of cleaning up the contamination.

New Jersey was one of the first states to establish drinking water standards for PFAS, and the House in July passed legislation to set national standards for the chemical, with all 12 New Jersey lawmakers voting yes, including Reps. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd Dist., and Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., who crossed party lines to do so.

Overall, New Jersey will receive at least $13.5 billion from the bill, which also provides federal funding to build the long-awaited Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River.

On Dec. 1, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reached the halfway point of his six-year term. Since his election in 2018, López Obrador has not only failed to improve the country’s disastrous human rights record, he has worked to undo many of the hard-fought gains in transparency and the rule of law that rights groups, activists and campaigners have achieved since the end of one-party rule in Mexico in 2000.

The United States has been noticeably silent regarding the Mexican president’s accelerating attacks on democracy. President Biden has instead chosen to focus on enlisting López Obrador to prevent migrants from reaching the U.S. border.

López Obrador, a prominent anti-establishment figure in Mexican politics for decades, is the kind of populist leader that has become increasingly common in Latin America. He was democratically elected in a landslide on a promise to “transform” Mexico by taking back control of the country from the elites whose policies he blamed for economic inequality, social breakdown and growing violence.

López Obrador inherited a human rights catastrophe. When he came to office in 2018, 12 years of a military-led drug war had led to horrific abuses. Homicides hit staggering numbers. Thousands of people disappeared every year. But he has not addressed these problems. Soldiers continue to kill civilians. Homicides remain at historically high rates. And according to the government’s figures, more than 25,000 people have gone missing on his watch.

Even so, López Obrador has remained immensely popular with his base. He appears to believe that his continued popular support gives him the moral authority to concentrate as much power as possible in his own hands and to attempt to control every part of the state to bring about his promised transformation.

He labels anyone who criticizes him or stands in his way as a “neoliberal” or “conservative,” nebulous groups of supposed adversaries whom he describes as corrupt and morally bankrupt. Leveling this charge allows him to avoid responding to genuine concerns raised by journalists who question him, women’s rights campaigners upset at his lack of action on gender-based violence, Indigenous communities who oppose his megaprojects, environmentalists who disagree with his coal and oil-focused energy policy, and press freedom campaigners concerned about his government’s harassment of journalists, among others.

He has eliminated or proposed eliminating many government agencies not under his direct control, including the independent energy and telecommunications regulators, funds for protecting journalists and responding to climate change and natural disasters, the independent transparency agency and the independent electoral authority. He recently decreed that his government’s construction and infrastructure projects would be automatically granted permits without any review and that as matters of “national security,” would be exempted from transparency rules.

He has also gone after the judicial system, which has delayed or blocked a number of his projects and proposals as abusive or unconstitutional. His efforts to intimidate the judiciary have grown brazen. López Obrador has publicly singled out those whose rulings he dislikes and called for a judge who ruled against him to be investigated.

In April, his coalition in Congress passed a law — since overturned — to extend the term of the Supreme Court chief justice who has ruled in favor of the president. And in August, López Obrador held a referendum on whether the government should put five previous presidents on trial for alleged crimes such as “neoliberalism” and the “privatization of public goods.”

The U.S. policy of ignoring López Obrador’s attacks on the rule of law came into stark relief in June, when Vice President Kamala Harris visited Mexico and met with him. At the end of the trip, a journalist asked the vice president if the United States was concerned about López Obrador’s hostile attitude toward the media and civil society.

Harris initially responded that she had urged the Mexican president to respect the independence of the judicial system, the press and civil society. However, hours later, her spokesperson issued a correction to the Spanish wire service EFE, saying the vice president had been confused; she and the Mexican president had only discussed immigration and the economy, nothing else.

López Obrador will be in office for another three years. His coalition still controls both houses of Congress and he has made it clear that he is willing to amend the constitution if necessary to remove obstacles to achieving his goals. Unless the circumstances change, there are no signs he intends to alter his course.

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