Stabenow vows to block energy bill without Flint aid

Melissa Nann Burke Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, vowed Wednesday to block a bipartisan energy bill until Republicans stop blocking proposed federal aid for Flint from becoming part of the package.

Stabenow said she found out Tuesday night that GOP senators were stopping the Flint aid amendment from being added for procedural reasons.

“At this point in time I think we need to make it very clear that we are serious, and if they want a bill we want to help the people of Flint,” she said.

Stabenow said the amendment would have paid to fix pipes in Flint, among other help for the city. Democrats had proposed a $600 million package of federal aid, but Stabenow said she and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, had agreed to less than half of their initial request.

“We understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, and Sen. Peters and I were willing, in fact, to support a proposal that was less than half of what we originally requested in order to be able to immediately get some help to the families of Flint,” Stabenow said in a Wednesday Senate floor speech.

“And now we can’t even get agreement on that because we’re hearing procedural excuses, procedural excuses that are overcome every single day on this Senate floor when we want to.”

The amendment would allow about $200 million for grants to be directed to any state that has received a presidential emergency declaration because of a public health threat from lead or other contaminants in a public drinking water supply system.

Michigan’s senators also are asking Congress to let Michigan use funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to forgive Flint’s outstanding debts on prior federal drinking water loans. A summary of the proposed amendment said: “Due to the state’s decision to not require corrosion control treatment, the water infrastructure the City is paying interest on is leaching lead and potentially harmful pathogens.”

The proposal would create and fund a 10-year, $200 million Center of Excellence on Lead Exposure to research the immediate and long-term needs of children and adults exposed to lead and communicate with the community.

The amendment has the backing of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who spoke out Tuesday about the Flint water crisis on the Senate floor.