When most people think of President Obama’s economic stimulus package, they think of new federal investments for infrastructure projects like building roads, renovating bridges, reconstructing railways or re-paving airport runways. But there is more to it than that.

Certainly construction projects are a major portion of the package. The 2000th such infrastructure contract worth $68 million was approved just yesterday, April 14th, to expand a stretch of the I-94 freeway in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Many more such projects are in the works. By this summer, construction workers, laborers, engineers, cement and steel factory workers and related industries will be humming with activity.

Less recognized or widely reported has been new injections of federal dollars in environmental clean-up, clean drinking water projects and alternative energy programs.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allocated almost $200 million in stimulus funds to help states assess and clean-up leaking underground petroleum storage tanks. In addition, the first one-third of nearly $300 million went to states, local and tribal governments and non-profit groups to begin to retrofit some 11 million buses for clean diesel usage to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

This week, the EPA announced $600 million in new funding authorized under the stimulus package for hazardous waste clean-up at about 50 new or expanded so-called Superfund sites across the country. The announcement will, for the most part, speed-up the release of funds for clean-up projects already in the works.

The federal Superfund program was created in 1980 to clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites that pose harmful risks to human health and the environment. Superfund sites are often found in industrial areas hardest hit by the recession, the EPA noted in a press statement.

In addition to new or expanded Superfund projects, the EPA made $236 million available to the state of Michigan for water infrastructure projects, this week. These funds are projected to help the state and local governments finance many of the overdue improvements to water projects that will protect public health and the environment as part of Michigan’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds programs, the EPA explained.

The program also directs resources to small and disadvantaged communities and to programs that encourage pollution prevention as a tool for ensuring safe drinking water.

“The EPA has an answer to these challenging economic times,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Under the Recovery Act, we’re getting harmful pollutants and dangerous chemicals out of these communities and putting jobs and investment back in.”

In related news, President Obama Tuesday, April 14th, touted the swiftness with which the stimulus programs have been implemented. ‘Just 41 days ago we announced funding for the first transportation project under ARRA (the economic stimulus package) and today we’re approving the 2,000th project,’ he told reporters. ‘I am proud to utter the two rarest phrases in the English language – projects are being approved ahead of schedule, and they are coming in under budget.’

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