Pending Environmental Problems

Clean air, land and water are no less a national priority than are national defense, an adequate system of interstate highways, and safe and efficient aviation and rail systems.  Alarmingly, the American Society of Civil Engineers (“ASCE”) gave America’s infrastructure a failing grade of D in its 2009 report.  ASCE also identified more than $2.2 trillion in outstanding infrastructure needs.  Yet, infrastructure spending in real dollars is about the same now as it was in 1968 when the economy was a third smaller.  EPA estimates that the nation must invest $390 billion over the next 20 years to replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demands.  State and local governments account for about 75% of infrastructure spending, and most are reeling from budgetary shortfalls.


The U.S. Conference of Mayors has been working on the issue of Brownfields since 1993.  Cities were asked to estimate the number and acreage of brownfields sites both in 1993 and 2010, subject to each city’s criteria and best available data.  In 1993, 67 cities estimated that they had a total of 11,824 brownfield sites consuming 15,228 acres of land; in 2010, 75 cities estimated that they had a total of 29,624 brownfields sites consuming 45,437 acres of land.[9]  The vast majority of cities (84%) said that they have been successful in redeveloping brownfield sites over the past 17 years.  Out of the remaining 16% who said they were unable to redevelop any brownfields, only half of those respondents (8%) actually said they had brownfield properties in their city.  Out of the successful cities, 65 were able, since 1993, to redevelop 1,010 sites which encompassed approximately 7,210 acres with 70 cities reporting that 906 sites are currently being redeveloped, comprising 4,683 acres.

Serious Threats Where You Live and What To Do About Them

Climate change is one of the most serious public health threats facing the nation, but few people are aware of how it can affect them. Children, the elderly, and communities living in poverty are among the most vulnerable. Click on a state on the map for more information on climate-health threats, actions being taken to prepare communities, and what you can do.

EPA Funding Levels Inadequate to Address Nation’s Infrastructure

The 2002 EPA Gap Analysis estimated that the United States must spend between $331 billion and $450 billion by 2019 to upgrade and maintain the nation’s existing wastewater infrastructure systems and to build new ones.  In January 2008, EPA estimated in the 2004 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey that the documented need for new Clean Water Act infrastructure is $202.5 billion nationwide in capital investments over the next 20 years to bring existing systems into compliance with Federal clean water regulations.

In order to implement federally created air programs, states need $1.2 billion, of which the federal government should provide 60 percent, or roughly $720 million.  To date, EPA has only provided about $220 million per year, creating what is roughly a $500 million shortfall that hinders states’ ability to effectively administer their air programs.

The case for increased Federal investment is compelling.  If the nation fails to meet the investment needs of the next 20 years, it risks reversing the public health, environmental, and economic gains of the past three decades.  This shortfall in funding, coupled with the growth in statutory duties and responsibilities, handicaps EPA from successfully achieving its mission.

Current State of Infrastructure

  • The physical condition of many of our nation’s 16,000 wastewater treatment systems is poor, due to a lack of investment in plant equipment and capital improvements over the years.  Many systems have reached the end of their useful design lives.
  • Older systems are plagued by chronic overflows during major rain storms and heavy snowmelt and, intentionally or not, are bringing about the discharge of billions of gallons of raw sewage into U.S. surface waters each year.
  • States are hard-pressed to fund their State environmental Agencies.  Without increased funding from EPA, human health and the environment will not be protected.
  • Needs are large and unprecedented; in many locations, local and State sources cannot be expected to meet this challenge alone and, because waters are shared across local and state boundaries.  The benefits of Federal help will accrue to the entire nation.
  • The nation’s aging infrastructure will eventually constrain economic growth.
  • A key impact of the constant budget shortfalls of the past has been a concurrent reduction in FTEs available to do the work of the Agency, when in fact, FTEs should have been increasing.

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