Flint Drinking Water Crisis becomes Big Business in DC
According to Greenwire, approximately two dozen entities have been lobbying during the first quarter of 2016 regarding the Flint drinking water crisis. These groups include environmental organizations, law firms, unions, children’s health advocates, and infrastructure groups. Their efforts center around legislation on Capitol Hill providing aid to residents of the city and repairing the water infrastructure for Flint.
An initial attempt for help included a Flint package in the comprehensive energy bill going through the Senate, but the Flint portion was removed while still in committee. Instead, $220 million of relief for Flint is in the Senate’s Water Resources Development Act, which made it through the Environment and Public Works Committee of the Senate late in April.
An additional $800 million aid package has been proposed by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) – Flint is in his district – that money would be used to replace water lines, provide long-term health care for the 9,000 children with lead poisoning from the water, and to enhance future water testing.
Mixed into the various proposed funding options come those outside entities and the lobbying firms employed by them. Some of the main players in that function include Gephardt Government Affairs, which lobbied for the Water Quality Association. These efforts were led by Richard Gephardt, former House Democratic Leader from Missouri. The Wessel Group Inc. represents lobbying efforts for Flint for at least three clients so far: the Alliance for American Manufacturing, McWane Inc., and the United Steelworkers.
Also, Venable LLP represents Garretson Resolution Group, based in Cincinnati that provides for those settling personal injury claims. The lead for Venable in these efforts is Bart Stupak, former member of the House of Representatives (D-Mich.).
And then there’s a host of Unions involved in lobbying the cause as well. These include the largest labor federation in the nation, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and the National Education Association.
According to Mary Kusler, NEA director of government relations said they represent both teachers and families in this crisis. Kusler said, “What Flint brings to a head is elected leaders were looking to save a buck and harmed children in the process. And that is why this goes further. … We care because it was children and families that were hurt. Children and families can’t cook, can’t bathe, can’t drink the water coming out of their faucets.” She also noted there are likely to be more special needs children in the future because of the tainted water.
Flint’s water crisis is national news and as such has found plenty of proponents lobbying for funding and aid in Washington DC. It hasn’t hurt that this crisis has shared a lot of time with the Presidential campaign and a visit late in April from Mr. Obama. But funding still is as much about clout and how many are pushing hard to pass bills through to become law.