News Briefs: Environmental Groups Hope Alabama Spends Relief Funds on Water Infrastructure

Also in this week's sewer and water news, lawmakers introduce legislation to curb cyberattacks against critical infrastructure

State and local governments in Alabama are expected to receive about $4 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act recently signed into law by President Joe Biden.

The expectation among environmental advocates in the state is that the money will largely be used to address stormwater overflows, fix broken sewer lines, expand water treatment plants and other water infrastructure improvements.

It’s well documented how badly parts of Alabama need sewer and water upgrades, particularly in the state’s Black Belt region, which one United Nations poverty official in 2017 called the most dire sewage disposal crisis he’d seen in a developed country.

Proposed Legislation Aims to Protect Infrastructure from Cyberattacks

Following the cyberattack on a Florida water treatment plant earlier this year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is introducing legislation that aims to protect critical infrastructure from such attacks.

The proposal is known as the Department of Homeland Security Industrial Control Systems Enhancement Act, and it would give more authority to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. CISA’s director would have the ability to detect and respond to cyberattacks and provide assistance under the proposed legislation.

Study Finds Municipalization of Long Island Water Company Cost-Effective 

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced completion of a study on the feasibility of municipalizing all or part of New York American Water Company, Inc.’s Long Island assets and operations. The study determined that municipalization of New York American Water is both feasible and, under several scenarios, in the public interest.

“Customers of New York American Water have been unduly burdened with exorbitant rates for the water they use on a daily basis, driven largely by costs having nothing to do with the provision of water,” Cuomo says. “The study issued today shows how the dramatic tax burden locally is contributing to 30% to 50% of customer bills and provides stakeholders with a pathway to resolve this problem once and for all.”

The 100-plus page study finds that the largest benefit of municipalizing NYAW is that the utility assets would become tax exempt. The primary recommendation made in the study was that the State Legislature act now to reduce the onerous property tax burden which is uniquely borne by the water company’s customers and that a new public authority be established with the power to purchase or obtain through eminent domain all or parts of New York American Water’s assets in Nassau County. Such an authority could decide to operate the assets itself, contract out its operation to established public water providers, or merge all or parts of them into existing public water providers.


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