Democrats set out to advance the American Jobs Plan

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DENVER – President Joe Biden has proposed a $ 2.3 billion infrastructure plan that could have far-reaching implications for Colorado if passed.

Colorado’s Democrats in Congress are speaking out in favor of the bill, including US MP Joe Neguse, who attended a press conference Monday to discuss the bill’s merits.

The plan calls for $ 621 billion in transportation infrastructure investments for things like roads, bridges, airports, public transportation, and more.

Another $ 580 billion would go into production, development, research and training.

Water infrastructure

The plan also provides $ 300 billion to upgrade the country’s storm, sewer and drinking water systems, as well as completely removing all lead pipes.

“Infrastructure doesn’t just mean roads and bridges. It means addressing the need to modernize and upgrade the power grid, ”said Neguse. “It also means addressing the water infrastructure challenges we have across the country in places like Flint, Michigan and here in Colorado.”

Denver Water is already in the process of removing its lead pipes. The department is responsible for approximately 3,000 miles of pipeline that serve 1.5 million people. Some of the pipes in the town date from the 19th century.

“The Lead Reduction Program is Denver Water’s largest public health initiative and focuses on removing between 64,000 and 84,000 lead lines in our water system,” said Jose Salas, a department spokesman.

Most of the lead pipes the city is trying to replace come from utility lines from homes built in the 1950s that are connected to the Denver Water pipes. Replacing each lead line takes between six and eight hours. In 2020, the city replaced 5,200 lead lines and created 300 jobs as part of its dismantling program.

Despite these efforts, Denver Water estimates it will take the city 15 years to replace all of the pipes, costing $ 500-600 million.

“We are definitely excited to hear about the upcoming infrastructure plan and it is something that we are learning about and that we will continue to study,” said Salas.

Neguse said the plan will focus on upgrading rural water systems in addition to replacing lead pipes.

“Investments in infrastructure, insofar as they modernize our water, sewer and rainwater systems, would also meet rural needs and rural small-scale water systems that have been neglected in the past,” said Neguse.

Sealing of oil and gas wells

The establishment plan also calls for $ 16 billion to be allocated to cover oil and gas wells across the country, including Colorado.

According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state currently has 239 orphaned wells and 535 orphaned oil and gas sites. An orphan well is one where no owner or operator can be found, or the owner is unwilling or unable to plug it and instead give up.

Capping each well costs an average of $ 82,000. Last year the state allocated $ 5 million of the COGCC budget to plugging wells and cleaning up surface sites. An orphan site is an area that may have had a significant environmental impact but an owner has not been found or the owner is unwilling or unable to mitigate the effects.

The president’s plan says the money will help hard-hit communities reduce methane and brine leaks and create jobs.

“Funding workers to eventually help cap these orphaned wells would not only extend to state but could also extend to state land through a variety of different grant programs,” Neguse said.

A tough road ahead of us

The USA ranks 13th in the world in terms of overall infrastructure quality. The president and supporters of the $ 2.3 billion plan say the investment will create meaningful jobs and help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Republicans are already resisting the plan, saying it is too big, too broad and too expensive for corporations as it relies on corporate tax hikes to fund it. Others criticize the plan for what it classifies as infrastructure projects.

Still, the president and his supporters are on their way to extol the merits of the plan and say they are open to negotiating change.

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