Late last Thursday, President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators announced the broad strokes of a compromise federal infrastructure package. The deal contains some positive climate and energy investments, but much more is needed.
The Biden Administration declared the compromise bill contained historic increases in funding for passenger rail, public transit, and electric vehicles, among other clean energy priorities. The White House issued a detailed statement asserting the deal will:
- “Improve healthy, sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans by modernizing and expanding transit and rail networks across the country, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan is the largest federal investment in public transit in history and is the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak.
- Repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.
- Build a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers along highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities. The largest investment in EV infrastructure in history, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will accomplish the President’s goal of building 500,000 EV chargers.
- Electrify thousands of school and transit buses across the country to reduce harmful emissions and drive domestic manufacturing of zero emission vehicles and components.
- Eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes, delivering clean drinking water to up to ten million American families and more than 400,000 schools and child care facilities that currently don’t have it, including in Tribal nations and disadvantaged communities. The Plan is the largest investment in clean drinking water and waste water infrastructure in American history.”
While the deal is described as a “framework” which will require extensive additional detail to craft into legislation, it includes top-line funding commitment numbers for each of those categories and others.
Climate advocates counter that the package of investments, while positive, falls far short of the funding needed to adequately address the climate crisis. Democratic House and Senate leaders broadly agree the bipartisan plan is only acceptable if a separate bill to fund other budget priorities is also passed with a simple majority using the Senate’s budget reconciliation process.
Environmental and climate action groups released statements supporting that parallel-track approach. League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said, “Congress must move forward with the two-track approach Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have committed to, including a rock-solid agreement among all Democrats to pass a bold climate, jobs, and justice package through reconciliation. That budget reconciliation package must include investments to cut emissions by at least half by 2030 and put our nation on the path to 100% carbon-free energy powering our electricity grid and new cars, buses, and buildings by 2035. While there are some necessary provisions in the bipartisan proposal, it does not act on climate at the scale that science and justice require or meet the commitments that the Biden-Harris administration made to act on climate and environmental justice. Moving forward on this bipartisan framework alone would send a message to communities across the country that their future is not important.”