House Democrats Put Climate, Environment at Centre of $760-Billion Infrastructure Plan
Grid modernization, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, public transit, and incentives for sustainable aviation fuels are key components of a five-year, US$760-billion infrastructure framework introduced last week by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, with The Hill concluding the plan puts environment at centre stage.
The plan “has major initiatives that will really encourage clean energy and address climate change,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) told media. It includes $34.3 billion for clean energy, $50.5 billion for clean water and wastewater infrastructure, and $25.4 billion for drinking water, along with $329 billion for roads and bridges, $55 billion for passenger rail, and $30 billion for airports, The Hill reports.
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“This plan would help us address climate change by making long-overdue investments in transportation, safe drinking water, and clean energy, including preparing for more frequent extreme weather events,” said Stephanie Gidigbi, director of policy and partnerships at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Healthy People and Thriving Communities program.
“Done right, this can be a critical down payment on the badly-needed transition to a clean economy that works well for everyone,” added Sara Chieffo, vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) emphasized the elements of the plan that “would aim to address a massive [infrastructure] maintenance backlog, design safer streets, and put the United States on a path toward zero emissions from the transportation sector,” Land Line reports.
“Our country has changed dramatically since the 1950s, yet people and goods are now literally stuck trying to move on transportation networks first developed nearly 70 years ago,” DeFazio said in a release. “It’s past time for transformational investments to make our infrastructure smarter, safer, and resilient to climate change, or else we will keep throwing money at an antiquated system that is only holding us and our economy back.”
Land Line says the top goals of the plan are to bring existing infrastructure into a state of good repair, set a path toward zero carbon pollution in transportation, promote environmental justice, and deliver a system “that is green, affordable, reliable, and efficient while providing access to jobs.”
House Democrats said they’d specifically decided not to put forward a funding plan for their infrastructure framework without prior conversation with the White House.
“I think it’s really important that we not volunteer a revenue stream until the administration reaches an agreement with us,” said House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA). “What we’re looking for here is an agreement that we can then take to the public between the two sides about how best to pay for it, so there’s not one-upmanship.”
“The president said throughout the campaign that’s something he wanted to do, so we hope to be joining with him in a unifying way,” added House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
In addition to addressing the infrastructure crisis in its own right, the House framework “also seeks to address climate change, a top Democratic priority,” The Hill says. “It incorporates ways to combat climate change with proposals like increasing the availability of charging stations and other fueling options for electric and zero-emissions vehicles, making roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, and investing in zero-emission buses for public transit to reduce traffic congestion.”
“There are so many ways we can deal with the climate crisis by solving our congestion and infrastructure crisis,” said DeFazio, who took the lead on the framework.
Republicans on the committee said they were open to a bipartisan effort on infrastructure, but declined to endorse the Democrats’ framework, The Hill adds.
“Any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must incorporate Republican principles as well,” said House T&I ranking member Sam Graves (R-MO). “The time for partisan posturing from House Democrat leadership is over. On this committee, we know the recipe for success in addressing America’s infrastructure needs is through partnership, so let’s get to work.”