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Infrastructure

Terri Sewell, Doug Jones introduce bills to help families repair, replace wastewater systems

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Tuesday introduced companion bills in the House and Senate to help families pay for replacement or repair of aging wastewater systems. 

The bills are an expansion of work already done by both Alabama lawmakers to improve access to water and make fixes to aging wastewater infrastructure, which is a growing problem in rural communities. 

If signed into law, the Decentralized Wastewater Grant Act of 2020 would establish a grant program under the Clean Water Act to help low and moderate-income households connect their homes to wastewater infrastructure or repair or replace stand-alone septic systems. 

“Clean water and adequate wastewater infrastructure are basic human rights that shouldn’t be restricted to only those who can afford them. In Alabama and many rural areas across the country, failing septic tanks and inadequate, unsafe wastewater infrastructure are far too common and pose health, economic and environmental risks to our communities,” Sewell said in a statement. “The bill introduced today would establish a new source of funding through the EPA for families to install and maintain septic systems, building upon our longstanding commitment to ending America’s wastewater crisis once and for all.”

 “In rural communities across the country, including Alabama’s historically underserved Black Belt region, some families lack access to even basic wastewater systems,” Jones said in a statement. “This is a critical public health and safety issue, and we need an all hands on deck approach to solve this crisis. That’s why I’m proud to introduce legislation to build on the progress that we’ve made on the federal level to provide all Americans with access to the infrastructure and clean water they need.”

If approved, the act would provide grants to nonprofit organizations, which would then help eligible households pay for the needed repairs or replacements. 

 In the December 2019 government funding bill, Sewell and Jones worked to secure:

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  • $1.45 billion for rural water and waste program loans through the USDA, an increase of $50 million since 2019.  
  • $659 million for the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Account.
  • $545 million for USDA water and waste grants for clean and reliable drinking water systems.
  • $5 million for the Rural Septic Tank Access Act, which Sewell and Jones got included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The USDA program will be used to provide grants to improve rural decentralized water systems and water wells.
  • $5 million for a pilot program to provide grants to a regional wastewater consortium to fund technical assistance and construction of regional wastewater systems by engineering experts at University of Alabama, University of South Alabama and Auburn University.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Congress

Brooks to vote no on Democratic infrastructure bill

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, said he will vote no this week on a Democratic infrastructure bill in the House, which he said was “socialism” cloaked in an infrastructure bill.

“Nancy Pelosi & her Socialist comrades are hellbent on destroying America,” Brooks claimed. “They won’t stop spending until America is bankrupt. They covet economic disaster so they can rebuild a Socialist America under the guise of providing economic relief. In this instance, Socialism comes cloaked as an infrastructure bill.”

Brooks cited as examples of excessive spending $29.3 billion in grants and subsidies to Amtrak’s intercity passenger rail service, $500 million a year to pay ports to replace their cargo handling equipment, hundreds of billions for public housing and “shifting funding from roads, streets, bridges and highways badly needed by red states like Alabama to subsidies of blue state inner-city mass transit programs.”

HR2, the Invest in America Act, is sponsored by Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

“The Socialists’ latest attempt to bankrupt America is a 2,300+ page bill, drafted behind closed doors by a select few, introduced just last week, that increases America’s debt and deficits by $1.5 trillion!” Brooks claimed. “That’s $1.5 trillion America doesn’t have, has to borrow to get, and cannot afford to pay back. America’s national debt blew through $23 trillion in November, $24 trillion in April, $25 trillion in May, and $26 trillion in June.”

“In April, the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) estimated a fiscal year 2020 $3.7 trillion deficit — without including this $1.5 trillion monstrosity,” Brooks said. “Both the CBO and America’s Comptroller General Gene Dodaro regularly describe America’s financial state as ‘unsustainable,’ accounting language for insolvency and bankruptcy.”

“Incredible as it may seem, even without this $1.5 trillion monstrosity, the federal government is on a course to spend roughly $50,000 per American household this year!” Brooks said. “Of course, that spending must first be taken from taxpayers in the form of higher taxes or greater debt. History proves you can’t spend and borrow your way to prosperity. America is no exception.”

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“Socialist Democrats call HR2 an infrastructure bill,” Brooks said. “The fact is, the bill contains more that would impede infrastructure projects than spur them. The bill is chock-full of new top-down, one size fits all Washington mandates and bureaucratic hurdles.”

Both President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats have been urging Congress to pass an infrastructure bill, but the two sides have been unable to agree on just what should be in the infrastructure bill. Republicans like Brooks have expressed concerns over growing the national debt on an infrastructure building spree paid for with growing budget deficits.

Brooks is serving in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District.

 

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Congress

Shelby announces $10.75 million for improvements to Alabama airports

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., today announced that 16 local airports across the state of Alabama will receive a total of $10,750,845 in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants for improvements to airport infrastructure.  The grant funding, awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has been made available through annual appropriations measures, as well as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) of 2020.

“Improvements to infrastructure at the local level are important for economic development in our communities,” said Senator Shelby.  “I am pleased that these 16 airports will receive nearly $11 million to enhance safety and boost aviation advancements.  This is great news for each of these areas and will advance economic growth.  I look forward to the positive impact this funding will have throughout Alabama.”

The FAA grants are administered through Fiscal Year 2020 Airport Improvement Program (AIP) annual and supplemental awards.  Additionally, funds provided through the CARES Act serve as the local match for the infrastructure grants.

A total of 16 grants were awarded to local airports in Alabama, amounting to $10,750,845 for the following airport projects:

  • South Alabama Regional Airport-Bill Benton Field, Sanford, Alabama – $166,666 to construct, extend, and improve the safety area
  • Auburn University Regional Airport, Auburn, Alabama – $2,085,581 to rehabilitate a runway
  • Bibb County Airport, Centreville, Alabama – $150,556 to reconstruct a taxiway
  • Cullman Regional Airport-Folsom Field, Vinemont, Alabama – $774,251 to rehabilitate a runway and reconfigure an existing taxiway
  • Jeremiah Denton Airport, Dauphin Island, Alabama – $588,888 to reconstruct runway lighting and airport lighting vault
  • Demopolis Regional Airport, Demopolis, Alabama – $166,666 to update the airport master plan or study
  • Weedon Field Airport, Eufaula, Alabama – $137,765 to acquire land for development and for obstruction removal
  • Evergreen Regional Airport-Middleton Field, Evergreen, Alabama – $455,663 to construct a taxiway
  • Richard Arthur Field Airport, Fayette, Alabama – $150,000 to reconstruct an apron
  • Posey Field Airport, Haleyville, Alabama – $604,575 to install perimeter fencing and for obstruction removal
  • Headland Municipal Airport, Headland, Alabama – $282,500 to install weather reporting equipment
  • Huntsville Executive Airport-Tom Sharp Jr. Field, Meridianville, Alabama – $204,934 to acquire land for development and construct an airport-related environmental study
  • Mobile Downtown Airport, Mobile, Alabama – $3,000,602 to rehabilitate an apron
  • Northwest Alabama Regional Airport, Muscle Shoals, Alabama – $517,600 to conduct a study, rehabilitate a taxiway, and seal runway pavement joints
  • Prattville Airport-Grouby Field, Prattville, Alabama – $1,129,018 to seal apron pavement joints, seal runway pavement joints, and seal taxiway pavement joints
  • Craig Field Airport, Selma, Alabama – $335,580 to rehabilitate a taxilane

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Infrastructure

Aderholt: Cullman Electric Cooperative’s fiber projects are a great step forward

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, on Friday said that Cullman Electric Cooperative’s phase one fiber project, “Is a great step forward for rural broadband.”

“As you may know, one of my top priorities in Congress is tackling the issue of rural broadband,” Aderholt said. “This is something that impacts so many people in our district on a daily basis, and it’s simply unacceptable. Right now, there are two different America’s, one that has access to high quality, high speed broadband, and one that does not. We have to fix this. That’s why I created the ReConnect Program years ago and pushed to include broadband funding in the COVID-19 relief bills we passed earlier this year. However, government can’t be the only solution to this problem – and luckily, here in our district we have organizations taking the matter into their own hands.”

“Cullman Electric Cooperative just introduced their phase one fiber project plan last week, and I am thrilled about the work they are doing,” Aderholt explained. “This is a great step forward for rural broadband in Alabama, and I am happy that these wonderful folks are right here in our community. One day rural America will have high quality, high speed broadband like the rest of the country, and we will be able to thank groups like Cullman EC for making it happen.”

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “High-speed internet is needed for jobs, health care, public safety, education, and quality of life. When potential large-scale employers are evaluating potential sites in the state of Alabama, almost every company inquires about access to broadband. Many rural counties do not initially have the tax base or level of population to fund the infrastructure needed for high-speed internet. As a response to the growing need for connectivity, financial assistance in the form of grants for service providers will help supply high-speed internet service to our rural areas. A team effort is essential to achieve the goal of broadband accessibility, which includes state assistance for the infrastructure administered by ADECA, federal assistance through the USDA, and private sector investments.”

“One of the most recent direct results of teamwork between the public and private sector includes Sprout Fiber Internet,” Dr. Jones explained. “Administered by Cullman Electric Cooperative, Sprout Fiber Internet will connect portions of Cullman County and Winston County with fiber at approximately 100 to 200 gig capacity. Phase One will serve some commercial areas and about 12,000 members. Residents can go to Cullman Electric Cooperative’s website (www.cullmanec.com/sprout) and input their address to verify coverage. Cullman Electric will host a series of community outreach events starting in July to discuss upcoming plans. The partnership with Cullman Electric is a tremendous achievement for the area and is only the beginning. High-speed internet will be supplied in ten phases. We look forward to seeing the benefits in our local communities.”

Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

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Economy

Shelby announces $61 Million in grants for Alabama airports

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, today announced that 25 local airports across the state of Alabama will receive a total of $60,999,054 in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants.

The funding, some of which is made available through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) of 2020, was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for various airport improvements.

“These FAA grants will support airport infrastructure improvements to 25 Alabama airports and allow operations to continue as they work to minimize the negative effects of COVID-19,” Shelby said in a statement. “It is important that we invest in advancing our airports, particularly those in rural areas which have a significant economic impact in local communities.  This $61 million in DOT funding for aviation in Alabama is great news and will contribute to the vitality of our entire state.”

The FAA grants are administered through Fiscal Year 2020 Airport Improvement Program (AIP) annual and supplemental awards.  Additionally, funds provided through the CARES Act serve as the local match for the airport improvement projects.

A total of 28 grants were awarded to 25 local airports in Alabama, amounting to $60,999,054 for the following airport projects:

  • Albertville Regional-Thomas J Brumlik Field, Albertville, Alabama – $380,200 to construct a taxilane
  • Atmore Municipal Airport, Atmore, Alabama – $333,333 to seal a runway pavement surface and pavement joints
  • Bay Minette Municipal Airport, Bay Minette, Alabama – $467,054 to construct a taxilane
  • Bessemer Airport, Bessemer, Alabama – $166,904 to update the airport’s master plan or study
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Birmingham, Alabama – $2,803,000 to improve airport drainage and $7,256,000 to rehabilitate a runway and a taxiway
  • Brewton Municipal Airport, Brewton, Alabama – $150,000 to improve airport drainage and erosion control
  • Camden Municipal Airport, Camden, Alabama – $326,404 to rehabilitate an access road and an apron
  • Chilton County Airport, Clanton, Alabama$555,556 to extend a runway
  • Pryor Field Regional Airport, Decatur, Alabama – $585,000 to seal a taxilane pavement surface and pavement joints
  • Dothan Regional Airport, Dothan, Alabama – $1,415,000 to acquire or rehabilitate an emergency generator; improve, modify, and rehabilitate a terminal building; and reconstruct an apron
  • H. L. (Sonny) Callahan Airport, Fairhope, Alabama – $491,111 to expand an access road and rehabilitate an apron and $120,000 to update the airport’s master plan or study
  • Florala Municipal Airport, Florala, Alabama – $425,000 to construct an access road and an apron
  • Foley Municipal Airport, Foley, Alabama – $361,111 to rehabilitate an apron
  • Isbell Field Airport, Fort Payne, Alabama – $75,000 to rehabilitate an apron
  • Northeast Alabama Regional Airport, Gadsden, Alabama – $166,667 to install a runway vertical and visual guidance system and rehabilitate airport beacons
  • Guntersville Municipal-Joe Starnes Field, Guntersville, Alabama – $166,667 to construct a runway and a taxiway
  • Hartselle-Morgan County Regional Airport, Hartselle, Alabama – $459,667 to install miscellaneous navigational aids and reconstruct runway and taxiway lighting
  • Huntsville International Airport, Huntsville, Alabama – $1,525,000 to acquire an aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicle and install security cameras and $23,374,511 to reconstruct runway lighting and rehabilitate a runway
  • Mobile Downtown Airport, Mobile, Alabama – $8,886,910 to rehabilitate a runway
  • North Pickens Airport,Reform, Alabama – $160,276 to install taxiway lighting
  • Roanoke Municipal Airport, Roanoke, Alabama – $123,689 to rehabilitate an apron, a runway, and a taxiway
  • Scottsboro Municipal-Word Field, Scottsboro, Alabama – $309,434 to improve airport drainage and rehabilitate a runway
  • Sylacauga Municipal Airport, Sylacauga, Alabama – $100,000 to reconstruct an airport beacon
  • Tuscaloosa National Airport, Tuscaloosa, Alabama – $9,444,444 to reconstruct a runway
  • Franklin Field Airport, Union Springs, Alabama – $371,116 to acquire land for development and install perimeter fencing

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