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Government & Politics

Senator Michael Bennet discusses benefits of Infrastructure and Jobs Act for Colorado

Michael Bennet horiz
courtesy Senator Michael Bennet
/
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet

President Joe Biden finalized a key part of his economic agenda by signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law this week. KSUT’s Sarah Flower spoke with Senator Michael Bennet about how this bill will affect Coloradans.

Interview Transcript:

Senator Michael Bennet 
We have very important investments here in forestry and broadband, in clean water in orphan wells. There's $4.7 billion in here for orphan wells. It's based on work that I did, beginning with the disaster that we had in Silverton, and the work with the tribes here is a big deal. There's $5 billion for the Indian Health Service Sanitation Deficiency List, which comes from my Tribal Access to Clean Water Act. And there's another $2 billion for broadband that comes through my Bridge Act. So Colorado's fingerprints are all over this bill.

Sarah Flower
We had talked, I think back in August, about this Tribal Access to Clean Water Act. Let's take a deeper dive into what that looks like for tribes here, specifically in Southwest Colorado.

Senator Bennet
Well, it's going to mean that they're eligible to be able to apply for grants to deal with the water systems. And as you know, in Southwest Colorado, there are times when members of tribes give each other bottles of water as gifts, because there's so little clean drinking water, which is just an absolute outrage. The money that we've put into this bill is enough to end the deficiency list at the Indian Health Service for clean water, which is, I think, a huge step forward for tribes and should be a big step forward for tribes and the tribes in Southwest Colorado as well.

Flower
The other initiative I see here is $35 million for wildfire recovery, which I think is a welcome chunk of change for Colorado.

Senator Bennet
Yeah, well, you know, one of the last times that I was in Durango this summer, we spent time at an overlook over the forest surrounding Durango with a group of people there that are doing excellent work, to try to do forest restoration and watershed protection. And that's what this money is for. It's $300 billion that's going to be really important. But it's just a start. In the next bill, the Build Back Better Bill, we've got $27 billion for forestry, $27 billion for conservation. That's the biggest investment in forestry ever. And it's the biggest investment in conservation since the Dust Bowl. I'm really thrilled about it because we had three of the worst fires in our state's history last year. And this summer, we were contending all summer with smoke from California. It's time for us to start doing work up front, rather than wait for these fires to happen. We're finally, thanks to Joe Biden's leadership, we're going to be able to take a crack at that.

Flower
Lastly, I want to talk about the timelines for when Coloradans will be able to see some of these changes from the infrastructure bill.

Senator Bennet
Well one great example is that the broadband legislation, the rules need to be promulgated by the Department of Commerce, by the Secretary of Commerce, within six months. The first installment of the money on clean water provisions is going to start to be available between now and the end of September 2022. We've got about $3.7 billion coming to Colorado for highways, we've got $225 million for bridges, another $917 for public transportation. So the list goes on and on. And we've got to get it out as quickly as we can and do it as well as we can. I think it's important that we implement this well and in a thoughtful way.

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