Trenton – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee today released legislation that would direct the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a statewide water infrastructure investment plan, which would serve as the State’s long-term capital investment strategy for upgrading its drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.
The bill, S-4011, sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Linda Greenstein, would establish various requirements for the plan, including an estimate of the State’s total water infrastructure funding needs, identification of long-term revenue sources, quantifiable goals for capital improvement that implement the State’s environmental priorities, and strategies to make water infrastructure more resilient to climate change. The plan would be updated at least once every five years.
“Fixing the State’s aging water infrastructure is necessary to ensure the continued health and prosperity of the State. However, New Jersey currently lacks a comprehensive system or report for understanding its water infrastructure investment needs,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “A water infrastructure investment plan will better inform policy makers on the extent of New Jersey’s water infrastructure funding needs and set a much-needed long-term strategy for maintaining and upgrading that infrastructure.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that New Jersey will require an investment of over $40 billion over the next 20 years to meet its drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure needs. While a large portion of this funding will be met through existing rates and State and federal funding, industry experts anticipate a large, unidentified funding gap. This legislation will give the State a clearer picture of its funding needs, and enable the State to develop a plan for the nearly $1 billion in new water infrastructure funds coming to New Jersey via the federal infrastructure bill.
“Much of the State’s water infrastructure has aged past its useful life and is breaking down due to decades of underinvestment,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Lead service lines, combined sewer overflows, and emerging contaminants threaten the health, safety, and economic well-being of New Jersey residents. We need a comprehensive, long-term plan to address these issues and a strategy to coordinate the use of new federal infrastructure funds.”
The legislation, developed in collaboration with the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association (UTCA) and New Jersey Future, implements a recommendation from the Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure, and builds off of recent legislative progress to improve the State’s water infrastructure, including the “Water Quality Accountability Act,” and legislation enacted earlier this year to require the replacement of lead service lines throughout the State.
“The Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey commends Senate President Sweeney and Senator Greenstein for having the vision to sponsor this bill that, if signed into law, will ensure that NJ has a long-term fiscal plan to assist utilities and local governments overcome a wide array of water infrastructure challenges in a transparent and accountable manner,” said Bob Briant, CEO of the UTCA. “With increased federal funding flowing to the State, we find ourselves in a once in a generation opportunity to meaningfully upgrade and better maintain the State’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. The time is now to get this right for the residents and rate payers of this state.”
“New Jersey can turn the corner on its water infrastructure challenges only if it has a clear understanding of the scope and scale of the problem, which this bill will ensure. New Jersey Future thanks Senate President Sweeney and Senator Greenstein for their foresight in calling for a long-term fiscal plan for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure,” said Chris Sturm, Managing Director for Policy and Water at New Jersey Future. “This plan can underlay a state strategy for deploying resources across the state, and especially to the communities that need it most.”
Finally, the legislation would require the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank to prepare an annual Water Infrastructure Capital Program, which would provide details about current water infrastructure projects in the State, and publish that information on its website.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0.