Biparty bill leaves out key climate and clean energy measures | New policies


By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – The $ 1,000 billion bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled by the Senate includes more than $ 150 billion to boost clean energy and promote “climate resilience” by making schools, ports and d ‘other structures better able to withstand extreme weather events such as storms and forest fires.

But the bill, up for a Senate vote this week, falls short of President Joe Biden’s pledge to turn the country’s heavily fossil-fueled economy into a clean-burning economy and shut down climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035.

Notably, the agreement omits mention of a clean electricity standard, a key part of Biden’s climate plan that would require the electricity grid to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydro.

It also doesn’t include a Civilian Climate Corps, a Biden favorite and a nod to the Great Depression-era New Deal that would put millions of Americans to work on conservation projects, renewable energy and helping communities recover from climate disasters.

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The White House says the bipartisan deal is just a first step, with a proposed $ 3.5 trillion package just for Democrats following closely behind. The larger bill, still being drafted in Congress, will deliver on Biden’s promise to move the country toward carbon-free electricity, make America a world leader in electric vehicles, and create millions of dollars. jobs in solar, wind and other clean energy sectors, supporters say. .

While the bipartisan plan is “a good start,” lawmakers “will address the climate crisis on the scale, scope and scale required” in the Democratic-only bill, said Sen. Ed Markey, D -Mass.

For now, the focus is on the bipartisan deal, which includes $ 550 billion in new spending for public works projects, $ 73 billion to update the power grid and more than $ 50 billion. to strengthen infrastructure against cyber attacks and climate change. There is also $ 7.5 billion for electric charging stations.

Citing fatal power outages in Texas earlier this year, the White House touted spending to improve the nation’s electricity grid and boost renewable energy. A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $ 70 billion a year. The bill also invests in demonstration projects for advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture and storage, and so-called clean hydrogen that can be burned with low emissions.

Yet the measure falls far short of Biden’s promise to address the climate crisis, even though triple-digit temperatures in the West have claimed hundreds of lives this summer and a hurricane season in the Atlantic. caused extensive damage.

“Clearly the deal does not respect the climate or justice time,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters.

“It sounds like Exxon’s infrastructure bill,” said Janet Redman of Greenpeace USA. “An infrastructure bill that does not prevent a full-blown climate catastrophe by funding a rapid transition to renewable energy would kill millions of Americans.”

The bill offers “glimmers of hope” such as a multibillion-dollar pledge to clean up and remediate old oil wells and mines, Redman said, calling on Democrats to show “the courage to be visionary and go further “in the partisan bill expected later. This year.

One of the main negotiators, Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, admitted that no one got everything they wanted in the bipartisan bill. “But we have found a good compromise that will help the American people,” he said.

“It’s about infrastructure,” Portman told the White House. “It’s about roads and bridges, but also a lot of other types of infrastructure including broadband, our water supply system and our rail system, which is good for the economy. It will lead to more efficiency and higher productivity, more economic growth. ”

The plan includes $ 21 billion to clean up brownfields and other polluted sites, reclaim abandoned mining land and cover orphaned oil and gas wells. The plan will help communities near contaminated industrial sites and rural areas where abandoned oil wells are a constant danger, the White House said.

The Senate voted, 66-28, on Friday to move the bill forward, but it’s not clear whether enough Republicans will eventually join the Democrats to support final passage. Senate rules require 60 votes in the equally divided 50-50 house to move the bill forward, but a simple majority to pass it.

The measure also faces turmoil in the tightly divided House, where progressives are pushing for increased spending on climate change and other issues and centrist lawmakers are reluctant to increase federal debt.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called the Senate bill inadequate and pledged to push for changes in the House , which passed a separate $ 715 billion bill on transportation and water in early July. Transportation is the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States

DeFazio, the main sponsor of the House bill, said his bill “charts our way forward,” adding that he “is fighting to ensure that we enact a transformative bill that supports our recovery and combating the existential threat of climate change ”.

Copyright 2021 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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