Tuesday, at the United States Conference of Mayors’ 88th Annual Meeting, the Committee on the Environment met to consider a series of resolutions designed to protect our environment and advance sound policies that create jobs and programs to help make our cities greener.

The Committee on the Environment advanced resolutions to support the creation of clean energy jobs, the treatment and storage of nuclear waste, development of water infrastructure projects, reform of the Harbor Maintenance Tax, reduction of the environmental impact of the NextGen airspace redesign and the developing and expanding waste and recycling markets.

Clean water is critical to protecting residents from public health threats, including the Coronavirus, but as it stands today more than two million Americans lack access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent Infrastructure Report Card grades the country’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure as a D and a D+ respectively.

The committee advanced three resolutions in support of water infrastructure projects, necessary to deliver the clean, safe drinking water cities need. This included a resolution in support of water infrastructure and workforce investment to protect and promote public health, a resolution supporting local control of water infrastructure projects, and a resolution advancing strategic partnerships in delivering water and wastewater infrastructure.

Another key focus of the Committee on the Environment were programs that will create clean energy jobs, advancing the country’s green economy. In addition to the workforce development provisions of the water infrastructure resolutions, the Committee also adopted a resolution to support clean energy jobs through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Blog Grant (EECGB) Program – an initiative designed to encourage investment in new energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. In the approved resolution, mayors call on Congress to fully fund the EECGB to allow cities to invest in projects that will create new clean energy jobs across the country.

The final resolution considered by the Environment standing committee at this year’s 88th Annual Meeting was an effort to support the development and expansion of waste and recycling markets.  Every city in the country has to manage the collection and disposal of waste in their communities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Recycling Economic Information Report outlined that in a single year, reuse and recycling activities accounted for 757,000 jobs, $36.6 billion in wages and $6.7 billion in tax revenue. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many waste and recycling sort facilities have reduced or stopped their operations to ensure the safety of their workforce and protect the public health. Investment in local waste and recycling programs will create good jobs, decrease costs for municipalities, residents and businesses and can create new markets for reuse and recovery of materials. In support of developing and expanding waste and recycling markets, the Committee approved the resolution with one amendment encouraging the federal government to grant incentives to businesses that work with local municipalities to promote sustainable reuse of recycled materials.

All of the resolutions approved by the USCM Committee on the Environment will now be considered by the Executive Committee of the Conference and those that pass will become policy for the next year.

Briefs on sanitation worker protections

In addition to considering the proposed resolutions, three panelists addressed the committee about the importance of protecting municipal solid waste workers during a pandemic and offered operational procedures and decontamination best practices to ensure the safety of essential workers. You can view their presentation here.

Additionally, Richard McHale, Assistant Director of Resource Recovery for the City of Austin spoke about how, amidst the pandemic, his city is improving health conditions at homeless encampment sites by providing meals, installing sinks and bathrooms, and ensuring adequate trash and proper needle disposal to protect some of its most vulnerable populations.