02.04.16

Sen. Peters Floor Remarks on Need for Bipartisan Action to Address Flint Water Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) spoke on the Senate Floor today on the need for bipartisan action to help the City of Flint recover from the water crisis. Below is a transcript of his remarks.

"Mr. President,

"I rise today to urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to oppose the upcoming cloture vote on the Energy Policy Modernization Act.

"This is not because I think this is a bad bill – in fact, I think this bill is the result of months of hard work on both sides of the aisle and contains important policy provisions that will move our economy forward.

"I appreciate the efforts of Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell, including their willingness to include bipartisan legislation I authored with Senators Alexander and Stabenow to support the development of next-generation clean vehicle technologies.

"While I sincerely hope we are able to advance this bill out of the Senate, it is simply too soon to cut off debate and invoke cloture.

"Senator Stabenow, Senator Cantwell and I have been negotiating with our Republican colleagues to secure critical assistance for the city of Flint, Michigan whose residents are continuing to suffer from a man-made disaster.

"Nearly two years ago, an unelected emergency manager appointed by Michigan’s Governor changed the City of Flint’s water source to the Flint River in an attempt to save money while the City prepared to transition to a new regional water authority.

"After switching away from clean water sourced from the Detroit Water Department, Flint residents began to receive improperly treated Flint River water – long known to be contaminated and potentially very corrosive.

"Brown or yellow water poured from Flint faucets that tasted and smelled terrible. This water wasn’t just disgusting – it was poisonous.

"This corrosive water leached lead from aging – but previously stable – infrastructure.

"A generation of children in Flint are now at risk of the severe effects of lead exposure, which can cause long-term developmental problems, nervous system damage, and decreased bone and muscle growth.

"Even though Flint is no longer pulling its water from the contaminated river and is back to drawing safe, Lake Huron water, the recently damaged pipes and infrastructure contaminate the water before it pours from the tap.

"Flint residents are unable to use their showers and need to wash themselves with baby wipes. Some walk as far as two miles to pick up bottled water to drink – the same bottled water they use to cook or brush their teeth.

"This is simply not sustainable – Flint needs the support of all levels of government to overhaul its damaged water infrastructure and help the children who will be dealing with the health effects of lead exposure for decades to come.

"What makes America so exceptional is the resiliency and unity of our people in the face of tragedy or a crisis.

"While Flint has faced decades of economic hardship, they are now facing a full-blown crisis – now is the time for all of us to pull together.

"On Monday, I heard from a woman who was on the verge of tears as she discussed her fears about the health conditions her young children would face.

"Yesterday, I met another mom from Flint who brought a baby bottle full of brown water she poured from her tap and brought to Washington to show my colleagues in Congress just how immediate a public health threat this crisis truly is.

"Mr. President, I believe that if any of my colleagues here saw a tragedy like this in their home state, they would be standing here doing everything in their power to deliver assistance, whether the crisis was natural or man-made.

"And as this crisis has raised questions about the safety of our water infrastructure, it’s possible that other communities could be affected. While other communities may not suffer a crisis like Flint, across the country communities are learning about the vulnerabilities their water supply may face.

"I should also reiterate that that the proposal Senator Stabenow and I have been negotiating would provide funding for any state that has had an emergency declaration related to lead or other contaminants in a public drinking water supply system – not just Flint.

"While we often talk about crumbling roads or bridges, hundreds – if not thousands – of American cities and towns have aging water infrastructure and lead pipes.

"Mr. President, should one of our colleagues’ communities experience a similar crisis in the coming months – this funding we are fighting for will be available for them as well.

"Now is the time for action to help the families of Flint. I hope we can reach a resolution on negotiations with our Republican colleagues – but we are not there yet, and I urge all of my colleagues to oppose cloture on this bill until we have a deal.

"Whether in Flint or elsewhere in America, we have a responsibility to care for our children. We must repair the trust Flint residents have lost in the ability of government officials to protect them and provide the most basic services.

"I strongly urge my colleagues to join us in our effort to help Flint recover from this unnecessary, man-made disaster.

"Standing up for children is not a Republican or Democratic issue. I hope we can come together here.

"This is common ground on which we can stand together and stand up for the people and children of Flint.

"Mr. President, I yield the floor."