What We’re Watching in Reconciliation: Regular Updates from EDF

Photo Credit: John Williams

Through the process known as budget reconciliation, Congress is now crafting a bill that could include significant investments in climate action that will drive economic and job growth. There are going to be a lot of moving parts over the next few weeks, which is why EDF will be weighing in regularly in this space to help break down what’s happening, and why it matters.

Want a primer on the key issues EDF will be watching? Read all about them here.

Dec. 13: Build Back Better Act moves through the Senate; White House releases new Executive Order building on climate investments

The Build Back Better Act continued its march through the Senate last week, with several key sections of the legislation going through the process of being vetted for final passage. We’re hearing a final vote may be scheduled as soon as December 20. 

But even as we wait for the Build Back Better Act to move through the Senate, the White House is not hesitating to act on the climate crisis. Last Wednesday, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs through Federal Sustainability and released a Federal Sustainability Plan detailing the government’s plan to “walk the talk” on clean energy. 

The latest White House Executive Order will complement Build Back Better legislation and accelerate job creation, climate action, and environmental justice. The Executive Order sets new, ambitious goals to reduce climate pollution from the federal government’s operations – including federal vehicle fleets, buildings, military bases and more. It will also harness the vast purchasing power of the federal government, the world’s largest single buyer, to catalyze clean energy industries in the United States by creating early demand for innovative low-carbon products that will pave the way for the rest of the market and boost domestic manufacturing.  The Executive Order also aims to incorporate equity and justice into the federal government’s climate planning and operations. 

These goals will both complement and be bolstered by the ultimate passage of the Build Back Better Act. Here are 5 things to know about what the Executive Order aims to accomplish and how it complements the investments in the Build Back Better Act:

  1. The government, the country’s largest energy consumer, will run on 100% clean electricity by 2030: This commitment will catalyze the deployment of 10 GW of new clean electricity by 2030 and require at least half of it to meet 24/7 clean electricity requirements. Funds included in the Build Back Better Act– including the Low Emissions Electricity Program and investments in energy storage and transmission– will help make this goal a reality and get the U.S. closer to the Biden administration’s goal of 100% clean power by 2035. 
  2. 100% of new government vehicles will be zero-emissions by 2035: Last year alone, the federal government procured nearly 50,000 cars and trucks, yet only 1.5% of the current federal vehicle fleet is zero-emission. Transforming the fleet to clean vehicles will not only boost American manufacturing and create high-quality, union jobs, but it will also slash air pollution that endangers communities across the U.S. Investments included in the Build Back Better Act will also help make this goal easier to reach by helping to grow the domestic supply chain for electric vehicle manufacturing. 
  3. All of the federal government’s purchases will be net-zero emissions by 2050: A new “Buy Clean” initiative will ensure that federally funded projects use low-carbon materials, like clean concrete and steel for buildings. The Build Back Better Act includes complementary programs to improve transparency in clean materials and fund federal procurement of low-carbon materials, as well as provisions to build and retool manufacturing facilities to produce clean energy technologies like solar panels, electric vehicles, and low-carbon cement and steel that this Executive Order demands. 
  4. Government buildings will be net-zero by 2045: The federal government will work to achieve net-zero emissions across their entire portfolio of buildings by 2045, with the aim to achieve half of these reductions by 2032. This process of electrification, energy efficiency improvements, and water use reductions across 300,000 federal buildings will achieve critical emissions reductions while improving the living conditions of millions of Americans who live and work in and around those buildings.
  5. Equity and environmental justice will receive a boost: The Biden Administration’s Justice40 initiative is a key aspect of its broader climate agenda, aiming to direct at least 40% of overall benefits toward disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment. Agencies will work to uphold the Administration’s Justice40 commitments by ensuring that environmental justice is advanced through annual sustainability and climate resilience planning. Passing the Build Back Better Act will unlock new investments in environmental justice, such as air pollution monitoring in historically marginalized communities, that can help ensure that the Executive Order meets its Justice40 goals.

Last week’s Executive Order shows that the Biden-Harris Administration is continuing to deliver on its whole-of-government approach. While the Build Back Better Act contains the administration’s flagship climate programs, including clean energy tax credits, clean manufacturing incentives, environmental justice investments, a civilian climate corps, and funding for low-carbon procurement, all of these investments will complement and accelerate the initiatives articulated in the Executive Order. In turn, the Executive Order provides an unprecedented demand-pull for clean technologies, amplifying the benefits of the investments in the Build Back Better Act.

These commitments to slash emissions from the full suite of federal infrastructure and operations are ambitious but achievable and passing the Build Back Better Act will provide the federal government with the tools it needs to succeed. Now it’s time for the Senate to build on the White House’s progress and pass Build Back Better.

Nov. 19: 10 ways the Build Back Better Act will benefit the U.S.

The House of Representatives has passed the single most significant piece of climate legislation ever. Now it’s on its way to the Senate, where it will also need to be passed in order to become law.

This bill is incredibly important in the effort to transition to a climate-safe economy. The bill includes key climate and clean energy investments that will make a real difference in the lives of people and communities across America.

Here are ten ways the Build Back Better Act will benefit U.S. families and businesses:

  1. Save Americans money on their energy bills: By 2030, clean energy incentives included in the Build Back Better Act are expected to help save U.S. families an average of $500 per year on energy bills, which is more than a third of what the typical family spends today. And leading rating agencies say the bill will not raise inflation in the U.S. economy. According to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, “The bills do not add to inflation pressures, as the policies help to lift long-term economic growth via stronger productivity and labor force growth, and thus take the edge off of inflation.”
  2. Make clean energy and EVs more affordable and available: On average, the bill will make it $7,000 cheaper to install solar panels on your home, up to $8,000 cheaper to weatherize your home, and up to $12,500 cheaper to buy an electric vehicle (EV). Additional incentives for building clean energy projects in low-income and underserved communities will help ensure these programs benefit middle-class and working families.
  3. Save lives and reduce illness from pollution: Programs included in the Build Back Better Act will cut toxic pollution from ports, trucks, and buses; replace over 5 million lead service lines; reduce pollution exposure inside homes and schools; and remove lead paint and other hazards from approximately half a million low-income homes. These common sense programs will help protect millions of Americans from toxic and hazardous pollutants that cause harms at all stages of life, from birth complications to childhood asthma to dementia.
  4. Improve health and environmental outcomes in underserved communities: Low-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate share of the burden of both climate change and health-harming pollution. The Build Back Better Act makes important and necessary investments in improving environmental justice for these communities. For example, it invests in air pollution monitoring, requires consideration of disproportionate exposure to air pollution as a factor in dispersing funding to reduce pollution, and provides funding and technical assistance to communities to support community-led efforts to combat the climate crisis.
  5. Reinvigorate American manufacturing: The bill will invest billions of dollars to help build or retool factories and manufacturing facilities to produce the clean energy technologies of the future– from solar panels and wind turbines to electric vehicles and clean steel and cement– while simultaneously growing the market for these products through purchasing incentives and procurement programs for clean goods. These investments will help regrow American’s manufacturing sector, creating thousands of jobs in the process.
  6. Make U.S. industries more competitive: As the rest of the world moves to drive down climate pollution, the market for clean technologies is poised to grow rapidly. The global market for renewable energy alone is expected to reach a value of $1.5 trillion by 2025. By investing in U.S. technological innovation, manufacturing, and supply chains for clean technologies and industries, the Build Back Better Act will help position the United States to win these highly competitive clean energy jobs — and the benefits they can bring — for communities across the country.
  7. Create good-paying jobs in all 50 states: The clean energy provisions in the Build Back Better Act will directly create and support millions of jobs in all sectors of the economy, from manufacturing and construction to finance and sales, and across all 50 states. One program alone– the Civilian Climate Corps– will create over 300,000 new jobs and put a new generation of Americans to work conserving, restoring, and bolstering our public lands and water against the impacts of climate change.
  8. Provide support for workers impacted by the energy transition: The bill will provide more than $20 billion to help give a fair shake to workers and communities historically reliant on fossil fuels, including through economic development funding, dislocated worker programs, and more. Notably, it includes $5 billion for a new Energy Community Reinvestment Financing Program at the Department of Energy and nearly $10 billion for USDA to assist rural electric cooperatives transition to clean energy.
  9. Bolster the resilience of our food system: The Build Back Better Act will make transformational investments in protecting U.S. agriculture from the impacts of climate change while simultaneously empowering farmers to be a part of the solution. As climate-induced extreme weather events accelerate, the conservation and forestry investments included in the bill will give producers the tools to adapt, build resilience and contribute to the climate solutions.
  10. Put us on a path towards a safer climate: With over half a trillion dedicated towards addressing the climate crisis, the Build Back Better Act would be the largest ever investment in combating climate change in the U.S. For context, that is more than six times as much funding as was included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that helped spark a decade of renewable power growth in the U.S. This bill will help create a safer and more stable climate for ourselves and for our children.

Multiple polls demonstrate that a majority of Americans support the Build Back Better Act. Americans want  Congress to deliver on the issues that they care about. By passing the Build Back Better Act, lawmakers can demonstrate that Congress is still responsive and able to deliver real benefits to the American people.

Nov. 19: House of Representatives Advances Unprecedented Investment to Fight Climate Crisis

After the House of Representatives passed the Build back Better Act this morning, Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President, Political Affairs, issued the following statement:

“The House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act this morning, a bill that includes more than $500 billion to address the climate crisis. It is a blueprint for action that will create millions of jobs, curb climate pollution, clean the air, and advance environmental justice. This is the most ambitious bill ever passed to combat the climate crisis.

“In recent weeks, we have seen remarkable momentum building in the fight against climate change. Congress recently passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a valuable and necessary investment in America’s future. In addition, President Biden announced a set of sweeping actions to cut methane pollution here in the United States, and over a hundred countries have jointly pledged to cut methane emissions.

“Now, the Senate must quickly pass the Build Back Better Act and move the United States toward a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable future. We cannot afford to miss this moment.”

  • Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President, Political Affairs

The Build Back Better Act will make historic investments in:

  • Clean electricity and electric vehicles, energy-efficient buildings, clean technology manufacturing and supply chains in the U.S., and more resilient, climate-smart agriculture aimed at driving down climate pollution throughout the entire economy
  • Energy and transportation incentives that will save consumers money. The White House estimates the plan will reduce energy costs for families by up to $500 a year over the next decade. It will also give consumers up to $12,500 in rebates for buying clean electric vehicles.
  • Tax incentives to help deploy more zero-emissions trucks and commercial vehicles.
  • Critical environmental justice initiatives:
    • A new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator program that will invest in clean energy projects around the country and will deliver 40% of the benefits of those investments to systematically disadvantaged communities as part of the President’s Justice40 initiative;
    • Funding for port electrification, cleaner transit, buses and trucks and more to drive down hazardous air pollution that endangers the health and well-being of millions of Americans — especially low-income communities and communities of color.
    • $3 billion in grants for disadvantaged communities to address the disproportionate impact of pollution and climate change;
    • More than $10 billion for rural communities to transition to clean energy;
    • $4 billion to reconnect communities of color who have been decimated and divided by highway infrastructure projects;
    • Weatherizing homes to reduce the energy burden for low- and moderate-income families.
  • Targeted incentives to directly create or support high-quality domestic jobs in every state. For U.S. supply chains and technologies, like batteries and solar, these incentives will boost our competitiveness in these emerging markets. They will also help U.S. industries like steel, aluminum and cement gain new opportunities and markets for low-carbon products.
  • Increased air pollution monitoring and mitigation, with a focus on using high-quality data to help those who are most vulnerable with solutions proven to have the greatest impact.
  • Community protection along our coasts and watersheds, particularly through natural infrastructure and other cost-effective solutions to increase their resilience to growing climate threats.
  • Agriculture, forestry and rural communities to implement nature-based solutions and clean energy, support rural water quality and build small-town economies.  As farmers and foresters grapple with climate-induced weather events, the conservation and forestry investments will give producers the tools to adapt, build resilience and contribute to the climate solutions.
  • A Civilian Climate Corps to train and put hundreds of thousands of young people to work in our communities to help recover from wildfires, floods and other disasters as well help communities adapt to climate change.

Nov. 9: To tackle the climate challenge head on, Congress must follow the Infrastructure bill with the Build Back Better Act

Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Friday night, paving the way for one of the most important climate bills ever to be considered by Congress — the Build Back Better Act — to receive a vote in the coming weeks. 

For months, the fate of the two bills has been intertwined as lawmakers have sought to ensure both bills make it across the finish line. Environmental organizations like ours have primarily been focused on passing the Build Back Better Act — and its $555B in climate and clean energy investments — which will be considered by the House later this month. The infrastructure bill is not a climate bill, centering instead on critical upgrades to more conventional infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and the built environment. 

Nevertheless, as the infrastructure bill heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law — and as advocates like EDF continue to push for the strongest possible Build Back Better Act — it is worth highlighting some of the noteworthy climate change wins in the infrastructure bill that set the table for what’s to come. These include funding to: 

  • Increase access to low- and no-pollution sources of transportation, including $39B to expand and transition public transit to run on cleaner sources of energy, up to $7.5B to build electric vehicle charging stations, at least $2.5B to purchase electric school buses, and $400M to reduce truck emissions at ports;
  • Build the electric grid of the clean energy future, including dedicated funding to expand transmission lines needed to accelerate clean energy deployment, modernize and strengthen the grid against climate change, make the grid smarter, more efficient  and more reliable, and keep existing clean energy sources online.
  • Develop and demonstrate new technologies for fighting climate change, including over $500M for energy storage pilot projects, $500M for reducing industrial emissions, $260M for renewable energy, a multibillion dollar investment in direct air capture of carbon, and a new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations at the Department of Energy;
  • Clean up legacy pollution sites while creating jobs in hard-hit energy communities, including nearly $5B to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells, $11B to reclaim abandoned mines, and $5B to remediate Superfund sites.
  • Make communities more resilient, with over $44B spread across a variety of priorities from wildfire risk reduction to natural infrastructure to flood assistance and coastal resilience. Notably, this includes more than $8B for critical water projects intended to help bring relief to the drought-stricken west. In addition, President Biden has said that the hundreds of billions invested in roads, bridges, and other infrastructure will also help to strengthen these investments against extreme weather, making the communities they run through more resilient in the face of climate change. 

Of course, many of these investments– such as expanded grid transmission and electric vehicle charging infrastructure– will only unlock climate and public health benefits if they are paired with additional investments that ensure new renewable energy is built to provide power to those lines and more electric vehicles can take advantage of new charging stations. And that’s exactly what the Build Back Better Act will do. 

The infrastructure bill represents an important investment in our nation’s economy and labor force, as well as a down payment in the fight against climate change. But to truly meet the moment on climate change, and to unlock the full value of the investments in that legislation, Congress must move quickly to pass the Build Back Better Act and take advantage of this historic opportunity to fight climate change, create millions of jobs and advance a more equitable economy.

Oct 28: White House Releases the Build Back Better Act Framework With Unprecedented Investment in Climate Action

Today, the White House released the framework for the Build Back Better Act, which includes a transformational $555 billion investment to tackle the climate crisis. If passed by Congress, it will be the largest effort to combat climate change in American history.

Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President for Political Affairs at EDF, issued the following statement in response:

“As the climate crisis poses a ‘code red’ threat to humanity, the Biden administration and Congress are responding with the largest-ever investment in climate action. This unprecedented down payment will improve the livelihoods of Americans around the country, by curbing harmful climate pollution, creating clean energy and manufacturing jobs, and building a safer, more equitable future for our children and grandchildren.

“The best available science shows that we need to reduce climate pollution sharply to avert the worst impacts of climate change. The framework announced today would generate essential progress toward achieving our national goal to reduce emissions 50-52% by 2030. It takes aim at climate pollution across the entire economy through critical investments in clean electricity and electric vehicles, energy-efficient buildings, clean technology manufacturing and supply chains in the U.S., and more resilient, climate-smart agriculture. It also includes significant investments to help better protect communities along our coasts and watersheds, particularly through natural infrastructure and other solutions to increase their resilience to growing climate threats.

“The clean energy investments in the Build Back Better Act framework will directly create and support jobs in all sectors of the economy — from manufacturing and construction to finance and conservation — in all 50 states. As the global clean energy transition accelerates, targeted incentives for U.S. supply chains and technologies, like batteries and solar, will boost our competitiveness in these emerging markets, while existing U.S. industries like steel, aluminum and cement, will gain new opportunities and markets for low-carbon products.

“The framework would also make critical advances for environmental justice. A new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator program will invest in clean energy projects around the country and will deliver 40% of the benefits of those investments to systematically disadvantaged communities as part of the President’s Justice40 initiative. The framework will also fund port electrification, cleaner transit, buses and trucks and more to drive down hazardous air pollution that endangers the health and well-being of millions of Americans — especially low-income communities and communities of color. Grants to environmental justice communities, and funding for a 300,000 person Civilian Climate Corps that will employ a diverse workforce to conserve our lands and build community resilience are also key components of the framework.

“The Build Back Better Act framework announced today will help move the United States toward a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable future. Congress must act quickly to pass the Build Back Better Act and deliver results for the American people.”

Oct 22: More than one pathway: Congress can meet the moment on climate action

It’s been all over the news this week: a significant piece of the Democrats’ climate policy agenda has been dropped from the Build Back Better Act. The Clean Electricity Performance Program or CEPP was designed to incentivize utilities to increase the percentage of their electricity generation coming from clean sources through a carrot-and-stick approach: offering rewards for meeting annual growth targets and assessing penalties for failing to meet minimum targets. Now it’s on the cutting room floor. So what does it mean for meeting our climate targets? Can Congress still meet the moment for climate action? 

In our very first post in this series, we asked a key question to help us assess the success of the package in tackling climate change: Will the package put us on track to meet our national climate goal of reducing climate pollution 50-52% by 2030?

A range of analyses agree: there are multiple policy pathways to achieving the 50-52% goal by 2030. Certainly no one policy is the only way forward. What is critical, however, is that policies are adopted to put the power sector incontrovertibly on track to reducing emissions at least 80% below 2005 levels by 2030. Congress and the Administration need to pull on all available levers to get us there. 

One of those key levers is an array of tax credits that were passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee as part of the Build Back Better Act back in September. Many independent analyses have looked at the numbers and concluded that tax credits represent the single greatest opportunity for driving reductions in climate pollution of all the investments currently included in the Build Back Better Act. Leaders from NGOs, utilities and think tanks also agree that passing clean energy tax credits with a full 10-year extension and flexibility is essential to putting the United States in reach of our climate goals. Not only does the package include critical tax credits for clean energy– providing that all-important downpayment in the power sector– but there are essential investments for clean vehicles and clean manufacturing, too. 

And there are additional opportunities to improve upon the tax credits contained in the House version of the Build Back Better Act. Notably, the House version does not include a number of Senate proposals to incentivize the domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies like wind, solar and batteries and retrofits to clean up industrial facilities. These additions would further strengthen the impact of the package. Additionally, Congress could increase incentives for investments in rooftop solar and other clean energy applications in low-income and underserved communities. Including these provisions would not only strengthen the climate impact of the overall tax package, it would also help create jobs and bring benefits to local communities right here in the United States. 

Expanded tax credits for electricity and manufacturing are not the only way that Congress could beef up the bill’s ability to tackle climate change. An economy-wide fee on the climate pollution companies produce would be the most effective approach for driving down emissions; new analysis from Resources for the Future shows it could achieve rapid cuts in line with the 2030 target. Congress should also include additional investments with potential to drive significant reductions in climate pollution, such as:

  • Programs that would provide grants for deployment of zero-emissions electricity generation;
  • Direct investments to reduce emissions from heavy industrial processes, like steelmaking;
  • Federal procurement of clean vehicles and green materials, like low-carbon cement for infrastructure projects, to accelerate market adoption;
  • Increased rebates for energy efficiency, electrification, and clean appliances in buildings;
  • Expanded support for EV infrastructure, especially for heavy-duty freight vehicle and bus applications.

To maximize the Act’s ability to tackle climate change, Congress will also need to preserve other high-impact provisions in the Build Back Better Act, such as the fee on methane emissions and funding for electricity transmission, electric vehicle charging stations, and zero-emissions trucks and buses. 

Meeting our national commitment to cut emissions 50-52% by 2030 will take ambitious, all-in action from Congress, the Administration, U.S. states and businesses. With climate impacts increasingly bearing down on communities across the country, Congress needs to do its part and pass a suite of strong climate investments that can slash emissions, create good-paying jobs and improve public health.

Sept 28: Congress faces its best chance to tackle climate change in more than a decade

Earlier this month, legislative committees in the House advanced a suite of bills that would make transformative investments in building a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable U.S. economy.

Packaged together, these bills comprise the Build Back Better Act, delivering on President Biden’s promise to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis in a way that will set the United States up for continued prosperity and growth in the decades to come.

It is also our single best shot at addressing the looming crisis of climate change, the effects of which are already being acutely felt across the country, from the East Coast, to the Gulf Coast, to the West Coast, in the added devastation wrought by climate-charged natural disasters. Passing the Build Back Better Act through the budget reconciliation process is Congress’ best chance to act on climate change for the foreseeable future.

The Build Back Better Act is the only bill on the table that has the potential to meet this critical climate moment: the best available science dictates that we reduce our emissions of climate pollution sharply in the next couple decades to avert the worst impacts of climate change. To align with this, the U.S. has set a goal of reducing its climate emissions by at least 50% by 2030. It’s an ambitious goal, but one that’s both necessary and achievable to meet. The transformative investments proposed in the House’s budget bill point the way.

Taking stock of the Build Back Better Act

In the wake of various House committee markups, the House Budget Committee packaged the pieces together for a vote by the full House, which makes now a good time to pause and take stock of what we’ve seen so far.

Over the last two weeks, we posted regular updates as each committee reported out their respective portions of the bill, where we looked at what those provisions would accomplish and who they would benefit. But what does it look like when we consider the individual pieces as a whole? And how does it measure up against the four key questions we asked in our first post:

  • Will the package put us on track to meet our climate goal of reducing climate pollution 50-52% by 2030? 
  • What kinds of jobs and economic opportunities will be created? 
  • How will Congress implement the President’s Justice40 initiative? 
  • What will the bill mean for public health? 

We tallied up the bill’s many climate and environment-related provisions to try to better understand their likely impacts across these four issue areas. We break it down for you below.

The House Build Back Better Act meets the scale of the climate crisis

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need a plan that will put us on track to reduce climate pollution 50-52% by 2030. Recent analyses indicate that the climate components included in the Build Back Better Act have the potential to put us well on the path towards meeting that goal.

As currently written, the bill includes in the ballpark of $1 trillion for climate and clean-energy-related measures. For comparison, this is more than 10 times as much climate-related funding as was included in the 2009 Recovery Act, making it the single largest investment in combating climate change the country has ever seen. 

We mentioned in our opening post that we would be watching for investments in the electric power and transportation sectors, given the critical importance of these sectors to meeting our climate goals. The Build Back Better Act delivers on these priorities with over $450 billion dedicated towards these two sectors alone. This includes crucial funding to incentivize the build-out of clean electricity like wind and solar, install electric vehicle charging stations, and incentivize the replacement of heavily polluting trucks with zero-emissions alternatives. Additional funding for technological innovation, domestic clean technology manufacturing, agricultural and natural climate solutions, and wildfire prevention, and a proposed fee on oil and gas methane emissions help round out the solution set.

Together, the Build Back Better Act bill and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are estimated to cut U.S. emissions by more than any other single action that any part of the federal government has ever taken to tackle climate change. Let us reiterate: This could be ground-breaking for climate progress, and we don’t know when we’ll have this opportunity in Congress again. And that’s only a preliminary estimate, counting only a handful of the most impactful provisions from both bills.

As the Build Back Better Act continues to move through the budget reconciliation process, we’ll be keeping a close eye on ensuring these critical climate provisions stay fully funded. With no time to lose to address climate change, we can’t afford to leave any opportunities on the cutting room floor.

All 50 states would see job creation and new economic investments 

The clean energy provisions in the Build Back Better Act will directly create and support millions of jobs in all sectors of the economy, from manufacturing and construction to finance and sales, and in all 50 states.

Thanks to a number of pro-labor provisions included in the bill, these jobs are more likely than ever before to be good-paying union jobs and to drive increased investment in U.S. manufacturing. After decades of losses in manufacturing jobs, new clean energy manufacturing incentives and domestic content requirements will help ensure we’re building the solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicles we need to fight climate change right here in the United States. Plus, new clean procurement programs would leverage government purchasing power to accelerate uptake of these products by, for instance, buying American-made electric vehicles for federal transportation fleets, clean electricity for public buildings, and clean steel and concrete for infrastructure projects.

And it’s not just industrial centers and big cities that will benefit. The investments included in the budget bill would accelerate a massive boom in clean energy deployment that will bring major economic benefits to rural areas, which host 99% of onshore wind and a growing share of utility-scale solar projects. According to a recent study, annual revenues from wind and solar projects could exceed $60 billion dollars by 2030—on par with expected revenues from the top three U.S. agricultural commodities: corn, soy, and beef production. Formerly coal-dependent regions, like those in Appalachia and Wyoming, are poised to reap particularly large rewards from new clean energy development. Clean energy incentives included in the bill will help drive  the demand needed to realize these benefits.

The bill will also create new employment opportunities in the sciences, engineering, and technology development, while paving the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs via significant proposed investments in climate science and innovation. The Civilian Climate Corps would put a generation of diverse, young, climate-minded Americans to work solving our world’s greatest challenges, restoring America’s lands and waters, and training for high-skill careers in climate action and conservation. Similar federal programs, such as AmeriCorps, have been estimated to return over $17 in public benefits for every $1 in federal funding spent on them. These investments equate to an investment in our future— one where the products of American innovation and knowledge are in high demand all over the world.

Historic investments to advance environmental and racial justice are on the line

The Build Back Better Act would make a significant down-payment on the President’s pledge to invest 40% of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments in disadvantaged communities. Collectively, more than $300 billion in funding is directed towards environmental justice priorities, with significant portions of that explicitly dedicated towards communities identified in the Justice40 initiative. This does not include general climate and clean energy funding, which may also have significant benefits in terms of reducing air pollution and driving investment and employment opportunities in these communities.

The environmental justice and equity provisions included in the Build Back Better Act take aim at a wide range of critical issues, including funding for improved air quality monitoring in highly-polluted communities, replacing lead pipes that contaminate our drinking water, and investing in affordable and sustainable housing. There’s funding for weather-proofing low-income homes, building community-owned solar projects in underserved areas, identifying and assisting communities disproportionately impacted by climate change, and providing direct grants to affected communities to use on community-led projects.

There is also $4 million in funding to support the implementation of the Justice40 Initiative. This would go towards providing assistance to federal agencies to develop and implement methodologies to measure benefits, develop a database to track agency benefits to disadvantaged communities, and produce a public facing scorecard detailing agency environmental justice initiatives.

These proposed investments are historic in scale and ambitious in nature, with the potential to benefit millions of Americans. This funding is critical to ensuring low-income communities, communities of color, and other historically marginalized communities have the resources they need to be included in the transition to a clean energy economy, and are no longer disproportionately harmed by climate change and other environmental injustices. No other legislative proposal on the table includes nearly as much funding towards achieving this goal. As the Build Back Better Act continues to move it’s way through Congress, we must continue to fight to ensure it includes the full levels of funding for environmental justice proposed in the House package.

Cleaner water and clearer skies are on the horizon

So what would all of these investments do to improve public health? A lot. The House package  would make transformational investments to protect the nation’s drinking water supply, clean up the air we breathe, and safeguard public health and safety from the impacts of climate change.

It would do this by providing the necessary funding to replace lead drinking water pipes across the country that Americans children are protected from lead exposure from their pipes. Additional investments in cleaning up highly-polluted areas, like Superfund sites and abandoned mines, will help ensure that these contaminants don’t get flushed into our drinking water whenever we experience flooding or extreme weather, which will only happen more often as the climate continues to change.

It would make significant strides in reducing health-harming air pollution by incentivizing the build out of pollution-free sources of energy and transportation so that we can gradually phase out the dirty technologies that are poisoning our air and our communities. Additional targeted funding would take aim at accelerating reductions in pollution hotspots, like those around ports and freight centers, which tend to be located in low-wealth communities and communities of color. So health equity would also get a boost from this funding. The bill would also provide much-needed resources to improve our ability to monitor air quality so that we can identify and address pollution hotspots going forward.

Finally, it would invest in safeguarding public health from the impacts of climate change by improving the resilience of our public infrastructure and health systems to climate impacts, investing in food safety and security, and working to reduce wildfires and the resulting smoke that has choked millions of Americans and made it unsafe to venture outside in parts of the country over the last couple of summers.

So what’s next?

The Build Back Better Act will need to pass both the House and the Senate via the budget reconciliation process before making its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law. In the interim, negotiations are ongoing and the bill remains subject to change.

A major vote with relevance for the package is scheduled to take place before the end of September. That is when House members will vote on the separate Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Infrastructure bill includes additional important climate measures that complement those included in the Build Back Better Act, but are insufficient on their own to address the climate crisis.

We’ll be watching to see how that vote plays out and keeping the pressure on for the House to pass the larger and more impactful Build Back Better Act.

Sept 16: House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee invests billions in transportation and housing inequities and tackles clean technology innovation 

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) voted to advance legislation to increase funding for clean public transportation, electric vehicles (EVs), and grants to support communities in accessing cleaner energy sources. Here are some of the highlights: 

Billions to flow to communities to invest in clean transit, affordable housing, and local pollution reductions

T&I lawmakers voted to advance a suite of programs that would give states, cities, and local communities access to billions in funding to support local housing, transportation, and air pollution monitoring needs.

Lawmakers placed an emphasis on ensuring low-income communities and communities of color would have access to this funding. Historically, lack of investment in these communities has led to poor air quality, increased levels of carbon dioxide pollution, and insufficient access to basic necessities like affordable housing and mobility options.

Previously, some government agencies have provided grant programs for these communities to assist in the installation of clean energy upgrades and address limited transportation options. The benefits, however, vary largely by state and there are few community incentives that encourage local governments to seek out ways to make these investments. The bill passed by T&I would help address these issues by providing billions in funding to support housing enhancements, access to transportation, and incentives for local governments to work towards reducing and monitoring carbon levels in their communities. Here’s what’s included:

  •  $9.9B for a new Affordable Housing Access Program to support access to affordable housing and enhancement of mobility for residents in disadvantaged communities. Eligible activities include workforce development, expanding transit service areas, and investments in zero-emissions and reduce-fare public transit.
  • $3.95B in Neighborhood Access and Equity grants for community projects to support neighborhood equity, safety, and affordable transportation access in a way that reduces surface transportation-related air pollution. This includes grants to monitor transportation air pollution, reconnect communities divided by existing infrastructure barriers, and increase participation in transportation planning by disadvantaged communities. Half of this funding will go  to economically disadvantaged communities.
  • $3.95B for Community Climate Incentive Grants, which would provide states and localities with funding for carbon reduction projects. This includes $50 million for the Federal Highway Administration to establish a greenhouse gas performance measure program.

Funding to reduce aviation emissions 

The committee also voted to include $1B in funding to reduce aviation emissions and advance low-emissions aviation technologies and sustainable aviation fuels. In 2020, United States airline companies agreed to reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by 50% prior to 2050. A key to being able to meet this goal will be to support the development and research of low emission aviation technologies. Prior to this bill, EDF worked alongside Senators Brown and Whitehouse to address this issue through the Sustainable Skies Act.

More funding to clean up America’s ports

U.S. shipping ports emit significant amounts of harmful pollution through ships, cargo equipment, harbor vessels, and locomotives. More than 39 million people , more often low-income residents and people of color, live near ports and are exposed to these harmful pollutants on a daily basis. The bill put forward by the committee includes $2.5 billion to reduce the impact of ports on the environment and local communities, including through investments in supply chain resilience, reductions in port congestion, the development of offshore wind support infrastructure, and environmental remediation. This is on top of investments in port emissions reductions advanced by the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

Sept 15: House Ways & Means Committee bolsters vital clean energy, EV and manufacturing tax credits

On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Committee (W&M) voted to advance a package of tax credits to incentivize clean energy, electric vehicles, and manufacturing. 

In recent decades, federal clean energy tax credits– including the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar power, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind, and tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles– played a central role in driving U.S. clean energy and vehicle deployment to its current record high. But the work is far from over: reaching our climate goals will require at least doubling the country’s annual rate of renewables deployment over the coming years. Even more rapid progress is needed to transition U.S. new car sales from our current high-water mark of 3% electric vehicles (EVs) to 100% by 2035 and to stand up a domestic clean energy manufacturing sector capable of making those technologies here in the U.S. 

The tax credit package put forth by W&M will be a critical component of helping the U.S. meet our pledge to the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% by 2030 and to achieve net-zero emissions by midcentury. Ramping up clean energy sources on our grid and electric vehicles on our roads will also create good-paying jobs across the country, boosting U.S. competitiveness in the growing global clean energy economy. Here’s what’s included:

Renewable electricity tax credits extended, made more accessible

W&M included the following critical provisions to carry existing renewable energy incentives forward and ensure that clean energy developers can leverage them more efficiently:

  • Extended credits for renewable energy: The existing ITC and PTC will be extended at full-value for 10-years, provided they meet certain labor standards. This will give solar and wind project developers and their financial backers the certainty needed to engage in long-term planning. 
  • Greater flexibility in choosing credits: Solar energy facilities will now have the option to choose between claiming the ITC and the PTC, rather than being restricted to using the ITC only. This will provide solar developers with more flexibility to choose the option that works best for a given project. Including PTC/ITC optionality is expected to result in over double the emissions reductions by 2031 compared to a 10-year extension that does not include this added flexibility . 
  • Direct pay: Commercial clean energy developers with limited tax liability will now have the option to monetize these tax credits directly, without having to rely on complicated financial structures that extract a portion of the value of the credit in the process. 

These provisions will ensure developers are able to receive the full benefits of existing tax credits and access the funding needed to bring new projects into the development pipeline, creating new jobs along the way. The last time direct pay was available for clean energy tax credits, it supported over 100,000 projects which cumulatively produced enough energy to power 8.5 million homes with clean electricity and helped to make these industries into the powerhouses they are today. Unfortunately, Committee members missed an opportunity to also extend direct pay to homeowners who install solar on their rooftops. 

Electric vehicle credits extended, expanded to cover heavy-duty vehicles

The legislation would also expand a suite of tax credits needed to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, including incentives for:

  • Light-duty vehicles: Lawmakers voted to make the existing $7,500 EV purchase credit more widely usable by eliminating the per-manufacturer cap and creating a direct pay option. Additional incentives are available for vehicles made in U.S. factories with organized labor and for vehicles with a minimum of 50% domestic content, bringing the maximum available credit up to $12,500. Credit eligibility is means-tested and limited based on vehicle purchase price and vehicle type. 
  • Medium and heavy duty trucks: A new credit for commercial vehicles is established, covering up to 30% of the cost of the vehicle. 
  • Charging infrastructure: The alternative fuel vehicle refueling property credit is extended and expanded to cover up to $100,000 of non-commercial charging ports, plus an additional 20% over that amount for qualifying commercial ports.
  • Used EVs: A new refundable credit for the purchase of a used EV is established. The base credit is $1,250, with additional incentives for battery capacity up to $2,500.

Electrifying trucks is a critical component to meeting our climate goals. We are glad to see that the Ways & Means committee has prioritized expanding tax credits to commercial vehicles, along with the charging infrastructure necessary to support the expansion of electric vehicles.

Standalone energy storage, transmission now eligible for tax credits

In addition to bolstering existing credits, lawmakers in W&M also voted to expand eligibility to additional technologies not currently covered by existing programs. These include:

  • Energy Storage: Standalone energy storage facilities will now be eligible for the ITC. Previously, energy storage was only eligible if it was part of an eligible solar project. This change fixes that outdated restriction. 
  • Transmission Properties: Electric transmission lines, which are notoriously difficult to finance and build, will now be eligible for the ITC.

Upgrading our nation’s aging power grid with additional energy storage and transmission capacity will be necessary to better accommodate high penetrations of renewable generation and the widespread electrification of end-uses needed to transition to a net-zero emissions economy. According to the American Council on Renewable Energy, a transmission ITC could generate $15 billion in investment and create 650,000 jobs. This could translate into significant cost savings for lower income families — totalling an estimated $2.3 billion in energy cost savings for the lower 80% of income brackets.

Lawmakers also included a tax credit for existing nuclear reactors, which would help keep this low-carbon source of electricity online. Nuclear energy accounts for over 50% of the clean electricity currently produced in the U.S. Nuclear plants that retire are often replaced with fossil fuel generation. 

New provisions on labor, environmental justice, domestic content 

Lawmakers also voted to include new provisions aimed at increasing the number of clean energy projects that support good-paying jobs, invest in low-income communities, and use American-made parts and materials. These include: 

  • Labor provisions: Both renewable electricity and electric vehicle purchase credits include new labor provisions. Renewable electricity projects must pay prevailing wages and meet apprenticeship levels, barring extenuating circumstances. For electric vehicles, an additional incentive of $4,500 is available for vehicles assembled in a U.S. facility that is represented by organized labor.
  • Investing in low-income communities: Solar facilities that benefit and engage low-income communities will receive an additional 10% investment tax credit.
  • Domestic content: To drive growth of domestic manufacturing, a bonus incentive is granted for renewable electricity projects that source 55% or more components from American businesses.  After ten years, the bonus will be replaced with a penalty, giving American businesses time to develop the domestic supply chains needed to meet these requirements. For electric vehicles, an additional $500 is available if the vehicle is assembled by a manufacturer which uses no less than 50% domestic content and is powered by battery cells manufactured in the U.S. 

These provisions will help ensure that the benefits of these projects are increasingly felt in communities across the country, in the form of new and well-paying jobs, cleaner air, and cheaper electricity. 

Manufacturing gets critical funding, but more is needed

The package provides $25 billion for 48C tax credits, an incredibly popular and oversubscribed program that reduces the cost of developing new facilities to produce clean energy technologies and vehicles. Credits are capped at $2.5 billion per year and priority is given to projects that have the greatest emissions, jobs, and equity benefits.

The bill does not include additional tax incentives that would strengthen domestic supply chains for certain clean energy technologies, like solar, which EDF supports. However, we look forward to working with Congress on including the incentives in a final package, and recently joined a letter with twelve allies advocating for robust manufacturing incentives.

New tax credit for sustainable aviation fuels 

The legislation provides a tax credit for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) that have lifecycle emissions at least 50% below those of petroleum-based jet fuels. To be eligible, fuels must conform with sustainability, information transmission, and traceability requirements set out by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) or similar requirements set out by the Secretary of Treasury. ICAO’s approach is technology and feedstock neutral, providing a sustainable pathway for American farmers to significantly contribute to the decarbonization of aviation with climate-smart agriculture practices and sustainable agricultural forestry residues.

While SAF currently represents less than 0.1% of global aviation fuel, these fuels will play a key role in reducing climate pollution from the aviation sector in the coming decade– as long as they meet high standards for environmental integrity. The right incentives can bring these fuels into reach. We look forward to working with Congress and the Biden administration to direct incentives toward fuels that will help us reach net zero by 2050.

Missed opportunity to repeal harmful fossil fuel subsidies

Along with missed opportunities to incentivize residential rooftop solar and provide a more robust suite of manufacturing incentives, W&M lawmakers also omitted provisions that would have repealed domestic subsidies for fossil fuel production. If included, these provisions would have yielded $35B in revenues towards funding the overall spending package. Continuing to subsidize the production of fossil fuels is fundamentally at odds with the stated goals of the Biden administration and Congressional leadership to take action to avert the worst impacts of climate change. 

Sept 15: House moves to tackle environmental inequities, invest in public health. 

Over the past couple of days, the House Energy & Commerce Committee (E&C) voted to advance sweeping legislation with massive implications for climate change, public health, and environmental justice and equity. This is the second of two posts where we’ll be breaking down some of the major provisions. In the first post, we dug into the key climate components of the bill. In this post, we’ll talk about the components of the bill focused on advancing environmental justice and public health

When President Biden released his plan for building back better, he announced that addressing persistent racial and environmental inequities would be a priority and that 40% of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments included in the plan would be targeted to disadvantaged communities. The bill reported out of E&C contains the most substantive investment in actualizing that pledge to date, with more than $50B in funding with a nexus to environmental justice and equity. Many of these investments will have far-reaching benefits for public health, both within the communities targeted by the President and for the U.S. as a whole. Here’s what’s included: 

Sufficient funding to replace all lead water pipes in the U.S. 

The bill includes $30 billion for lead service line replacement along with an additional $2.5 billion investment to improve access to clean, safe drinking water and make water systems more resilient and equitable. Two-thirds of the funding is directed towards disadvantaged communities.

More than 9 million homes in America still get their water from lead service lines. These are the lead pipes connecting the home to the drinking water main under the street. There is no safe level of lead exposure, which can harm children’s brain development, and put adults at higher risk of hypertension and heart disease. President Biden has made the removal of all lead service lines a priority, with a focus on improving the health of children and communities of color. 

This funding, along with the $15 billion included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will ensure that all lead service lines can be fully replaced nationwide in an equitable manner that protects public health and creates good jobs for residents. 

Billions targeted towards identifying and mitigating air pollution hotspots

New science reveals just how significant air pollution is for human health and the climate. Exposure to air pollution in the United States results in 65 to 100 thousand premature lives lost across the United States. It also causes up to 20% of asthma emergency room visits, and tens of thousands of hospitalizations due to heart and lung diseases.

Low-income communities and communities of color bear the brunt of these impacts. For instance, in a recent study of the SF Bay Area, EDF found that neighborhoods with higher percentages of residents of color experienced, on average, double the rate of asthma from traffic-related air pollution compared with predominantly White neighborhoods.

The bill passed out of E&C includes several funding programs dedicated to identifying, monitoring, and mitigating pollution hotspots and tackling sectors with especially health-harming emissions. These include: 

  • $3.5B to reduce air pollution at ports. Approximately 39 million US citizens live near port and maritime operations, exposing them to toxins such as air and water pollution. A disproportionate number of these port-adjacent communities are low-income and/or communities of color. Living near port activities impacts the health and well-being of these communities. Port-related activities increase the risk of exposure to diesel pollution, which leads to health outcomes that include heart attacks, lung cancer, asthma, and other respiratory diseases. 
  • $315 million to address air pollution and air quality monitoring in communities across the country, of which $3M is for deploying air quality sensors in low-income and disadvantaged communities. These funds are critical for developing the robust air quality monitoring network needed to identify and mitigate pollution hotspots.
  • $170M to reduce diesel emissions, of which $120M are for low-income and disadvantaged communities. Despite being only 4% of the registered vehicles in the US, diesel vehicles are responsible for 60% of the air quality mortality burden from all cars and trucks. Diesel emissions disproportionately harm communities of color. For example, regardless of their state or income, Black populations are exposed to 26% higher levels of soot from heavy-duty diesel trucks than the national average. Once exposed they are then 3 times higher risk of adverse health impacts due to the exposure. 

This funding represents a long-overdue opportunity to dramatically improve access to information about air pollution and public health outcomes for communities living in close proximity to significant sources of air pollution, like ports and freight operations. 

Investments in job-creation, pollution remediation in low-income communities, communities of color, and communities transitioning off of fossil fuels 

As the US accelerates the shift to a low-carbon economy, all forms of climate, environmental, and energy injustice should be dismantled – and that includes tackling the disproportionate burdens working people may face as economic opportunities shift. Lawmakers voted to fund several programs that would help create new jobs and revitalize struggling communities, whether they’re struggling from historic underinvestment or more recent economic shifts due the transition towards cleaner fuels. These include: 

    • $5 billion for climate and environmental justice grants, which can be used for a wide array of purposes ranging from community-led pollution prevention programs to facilitating engagement of such low-income or disadvantaged communities in State and Federal public processes. 
    • $2 billion in loans for reinvestment in energy communities, which can ensure fairness for workers and families affected by the energy transition by funding workforce development, economic development, environmental remediation, and related efforts.
  • $2.5 billion to install solar arrays in low-income communities, including community solar facilities or residential solar on a low-income household or affordable housing complex. The funds would cover planning and installation and prioritize projects that generate the greatest financial benefit and local job creation.
  • $10 billion to clean up Superfund sites, the nation’s most toxic and polluted lands and waters, many of which have been unaddressed for years, the clean-up of which will generate jobs all over the country. 

While far from sufficient, these funds are a critical step towards providing communities with the resources they need to participate in and benefit from the transition to a clean energy economy. 

Resources for dealing with the health impacts of climate change

Smoke from dozens of western wildfires spread across the country this year, illustrating that you do not have to live in a particular state to have your air quality and health impacted by climate change. In recognition of the threat that climate poses to public health, the committee included several resources for mitigating these impacts, including:

  • Investments dedicated to protecting and saving the lives of Black mothers and babies from the health impacts of climate change. This includes $175 million for local groups to address the social determinants of maternal health, including environmental conditions. It also includes $85 million to address the impacts of climate change on maternal and infant health through support for the development and integration of education and training programs for identifying and addressing health risks associated with climate change for pregnant, lactating, and postpartum mothers. Additional funding is dedicated to creating maternal mental health equity grant programs, promoting community engagement, expanding access to tools and technology, and strengthening federal maternal health programs. 
  • $150M to mitigate the health and environmental effects of smoke from wildfires. As we’ve mentioned previously, exposure to wildfire smoke can exacerbate the risks and symptoms of a variety of common illnesses and health conditions. While wildfires are expected in the West, climate change has increased the size and intensity of wildfires.

Sept 14: House takes aim at climate change, investing in reducing pollution from electric power, transportation, and oil & gas wells. 

On Tuesday, the House Energy & Commerce Committee (E&C) voted to advance sweeping legislation with massive implications for climate change, public health, and environmental justice and equity. This is the first of two posts where we’ll be breaking down some of the major provisions. In this post we’ll dig into the key climate components of the bill. In the next post, we’ll talk about components of the bill focused on advancing environmental justice and public health. 

In April, President Biden delivered the most ambitious climate pledge of any U.S. administration in history. He promised to put in place policies that by 2030 will cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emission levels by 50-52%, and that by mid-century will achieve a net-zero emissions economy. These goals align with what the science shows is necessary to curb the most devastating impacts of climate change. 

The E&C bill would take significant strides towards achieving these goals by tackling emissions in three of the most critical sectors for combating climate change in the U.S.: electric power, transportation, and methane from oil & gas wells. Here are the highlights:

Cleaning up the electric power grid

As many analyses have shown, the linchpin to reaching the president’s economy-wide emissions target for 2030 is to reduce emissions from the power sector by at least 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. These reductions are both readily available and highly cost-effective – and they are the key to unlocking necessary reductions in other sectors, such as transportation, buildings and industry, by providing them with the clean electricity they need to replace fossil fuels. 

The House Ways & Means Committee will vote this week on one of the most critical provisions for achieving our electric power sector goals: a robust suite of clean energy tax incentives, designed to drive down the costs and accelerate the deployment of clean electricity across the country. The bill advanced by E&C would make several additional investments to promote cleaner electricity, including:

  •  $150B for a new Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), housed at the Department of Energy (DOE), which would utilize a carrot-and-stick approach to incentivize electric utilities to steadily increase the amount of electricity they generate that comes from clean sources. Specifically, utilities that increase their clean energy portfolios by more than 4% annually would qualify for payments, while those that do not would incur a penalty. Payments would have to be used by the utilities for public benefit initiatives such as direct bill assistance to consumers, worker retention and additional clean energy investments;
  • $9B to upgrade and expand the country’s aging electric transmission infrastructure, which is needed to enable more clean energy to flow across the grid; and
  • $18B in home energy efficiency and appliance electrification rebates, which will help reduce the total amount of electricity needed during high-demand hours and make it easier to meet demand with clean resources.

It’s critical that any CEPP is coupled with a transparent and enforceable penalty for utilities that fall short on the deployment of clean energy, and lawmakers must also ensure that DOE is well equipped with the clear authority and adequate personnel for program development, compliance monitoring, and effective enforcement.

Paired with clean energy tax credits, these investments can help spur the deployment of clean energy across the country. At the same time such spending strategies alone will not ensure that we get the cuts in pollution needed over the next decade; it will be essential to ensure we adopt enforceable regulations and performance standards at the state and federal level that guarantee the needed 80% reduction in power sector pollution– following the lead of states such as Oregon. Both the E&C and Ways & Means provisions can provide a valuable down payment. 

The shift towards a low-emissions electric grid can generate massive rewards beyond the obvious climate benefits, including cleaner, healthier air and the creation of new jobs in rapidly growing low-carbon industries. A recent report found that achieving an 80% clean electricity grid by 2030 would improve air quality in the lower 48, saving an estimated 9,200 lives in the year 2030 and a cumulative 317,500 lives by 2050. 

Shifting to clean power also makes economic sense. New onshore wind and solar energy are already cheaper than most alternatives and continue to fall in price, making switching to these cleaner sources of electricity a no-brainer. 

Accelerating the transition to clean cars, trucks

Currently, about 3% of U.S. car sales are electric vehicles (EVs). To reach our climate goals and maintain a chance of averting the worst impacts of climate change, we need that number to climb to 100% of all new car sales by 2035 and for all new trucks by 2040. The bill put forward by the committee would help accelerate this transition through targeted investments in a handful of high-priority areas, including:

  • $13.5B to build out the nation’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including incentives for public charging stations and multi-dwelling units, as well as low-income and underserved areas;
  • $5B for a new EPA program aimed at electrifying heavy-duty vehicles, with at least 40% of the funds going to areas struggling to meet federal clean air standards;
  • $4B for advanced vehicle manufacturing;
  • $3.5B to reduce air pollution at ports; and
  • $170M to reduce diesel emissions.

The bill would also enable federal buildings to receive funding to install EV charging stations through an additional $17.5B program to drive down emissions from federal buildings and operations.

These investments will play a critical role in jumpstarting the electrification of the transportation sector. Axios reports that fewer than 10% of Americans have easy access to an electric vehicle charging station, and those who do tend to be wealthy and white. Expanding access to EV charging infrastructure is critical to both fighting climate change, reducing health-harming pollution, and enhancing equitable outcomes in clean mobility. 

The proposed investments in heavy-duty vehicles is equally critical. While comprising less than 10% of all vehicles on the road, medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for more than 60% of emissions that contribute to poor air quality in many urban areas, including areas with vulnerable populations. Eliminating tailpipe emissions from new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2040 could provide up to $485 billion in health and environmental benefits as a result of pollution reductions. 

The shift to electric vehicles will benefit Americans in many ways. The EV industry is expected to create over two million jobs in the United States in the coming decades, depending on the level of government investment in the sector. The cost of fueling an EV with electricity is currently less than half as much as the cost of the gasoline equivalent. Moreover, the combination of cleaning up the electric grid and achieving 100% electrification of new car sales by 2030 would prevent $1.3 trillion in health and environmental costs in the coming decades. 

Fee on methane would help slow warming, raise revenues for impacted communities

Legislation advanced by the committee includes a fee on methane pollution from oil and gas production, processing and transmission. Methane is a short-lived, but highly potent greenhouse gas– more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after it is emitted– and is responsible for roughly one quarter of the global warming we are experiencing today.

Some key attributes of the proposed methane fee:

  • The fee is currently proposed at $1500/ton of methane (equal to $60 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent) and is assessed on methane emissions reported to EPA under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP).
  • The fee only kicks in when methane emissions exceed pollution thresholds that are consistent with the oil and gas industry’s own targets.
  • The bill also includes provisions to improve and expand EPA’s GHGRP which currently reflects only a portion of total methane emissions from oil and gas (by some estimates GHGRP underreports U.S. methane emissions by 60%). The bill directs EPA to lower the reporting threshold in GHGRP so that more facilities are covered by the fee.  It also directs the agency to improve the coverage, accuracy and transparency of methane pollution reporting.  

Reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants such as methane rapidly and soon is critical to reducing the near-term rate of warming— with major reductions in climate-caused damage to society and ecosystems. The proposed fee on methane could serve as an important complement to protective EPA standards by providing resources that will help facilitate more accurate emissions monitoring and measurement and supporting efforts to repair impacts to affected communities. 

Rigorous, science-based and enforceable pollution limits, coupled with a fee to raise revenue for impacted communities and improving mitigation, will ensure that we can reduce methane from the oil and gas industry at the rate that is needed to immediately slow the rate of growth in global warming and help to protect communities.

Investing in a U.S. clean manufacturing sector  

Legislation advanced by the committee includes substantial investments in clean manufacturing. U.S. manufacturing employs millions of American workers, contributes trillions a year to the gross domestic product, accounts for more than two-thirds of private sector research and development, and plays a central role in the balance of U.S. imports and exports. Heavy industry is also responsible for nearly a third of U.S. emissions, after accounting for electricity usage.

Building out our domestic clean manufacturing capacity is therefore a major priority, both to enable us to produce the clean energy and vehicles we need to meet our climate goals, as well as to reduce emissions from energy-intensive heavy industries like cement and steel. Investing in domestic manufacturing today can complement other policy priorities, like clean energy tax credits, by maximizing the amount of American jobs they support and minimizing supply chain disruptions. 

The committee’s legislation includes:

  • $17.5 billion for the federal energy efficiency fund, which is used to reduce emissions from federal buildings and provides grants across federal agencies to purchase low-carbon materials, thereby incentivizing clean industrial processes.
  • $3.7 billion across the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing and Title 17 programs at DOE, which provide loans and loan guarantees for innovative clean technologies and U.S. clean vehicle manufacturers.
  • $1 billion for automotive manufacturing conversion grants, which can help existing auto manufacturers retool their facilities to produce electric vehicles, an important tool for retaining and creating green jobs in existing manufacturing communities.
  • $250 million to enable manufacturers to adopt environmental product declarations, which provide transparency into the embedded emissions in cement, steel, and other industrial products, laying the groundwork for us to reduce climate pollution from these high-emitting sectors.

Unfortunately, the bill does not include significant direct investments in industrial decarbonization, such as grants to retrofit steel mills or demonstrate first-in-class zero-emissions cement production. DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office is well positioned to deliver these investments. We look forward to further efforts to decarbonize our high-emitting manufacturing sectors.

Green Bank

Finally, the bill includes $27.5 billion toward the establishment of a national green bank — dubbed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund — that would pair public dollars with private money to finance deployment of clean technology, like solar farms and electric vehicles. The fund is based on the Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator proposed in the President’s American Jobs Plan. Forty percent of investments would go toward low-income and disadvantaged communities, which have historically faced significant barriers to clean energy adoption and local ownership.

Sept 13: Farmers, rural communities to get resources to combat, adapt to climate change, but some opportunities are left on the table. 

On Monday, the House Agriculture Committee reported legislative text out of committee that would drive investment and employment in rural and agricultural communities, while equipping farmers to contribute to the fight against climate change. Missing from the bill is any funding for USDA’s popular and effective climate-smart conservation programs. Here are the highlights:  

Funding for the rural clean energy transition 

The committee voted to allocate over $18 billion in rural job-promoting investments to ensure those living in rural America, on tribal lands, and isolated regions of the country can reap the benefits of the clean energy transition. Funding includes: 

  • $9.7B to help rural cooperative utilities (co-ops) transition from coal to clean and efficient electricity, both reducing emissions and encouraging community-owned renewables; 
  • $2.6B for farmers and small business owners to install renewable energy and make energy efficiency improvements through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP); 
  • $4B for a new Rural Partnership Program, which will provide flexible grant funding for rural communities to support job growth, build economic resilience, and aid economic recovery in communities impacted by economic transitions and climate change.

These investments could drive significant job creation in America’s rural communities in fields like renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean energy infrastructure, forest restoration, environmental remediation of abandoned fossil fuel infrastructure, and wildfire risk management. They can also enable fairness for rural communities affected by the transition away from fossil fuels. Every $1 million invested in these types of activities could generate 17.5 rural jobs and $1.5 million in value added in rural economies. 

Farmers, landowners get resources to implement natural climate solutions, but no new funding for popular conservation programs

Lawmakers voted to dedicate new funds towards developing and deploying the set of natural climate solutions needed to enable farmers to store carbon from the atmosphere directly in agricultural soils, including $5B for a new cover crop initiative that would help farmers adopt this carbon-sequestering practice, as well as $750M to develop the soil monitoring techniques needed to enable farmers to measure and benefit from the carbon they’re storing in their soils. 

Not included in the bill is any funding for USDA’s popular and effective conservation programs. The committee’s plan to include a historic $28B investment in a handful of conservation programs was dropped from Friday’s markup after complications emerged relating to the rules governing the reconciliation process. To the best of our knowledge, lawmakers are working to include these provisions once the bill moves to the House floor. 

If included, these provisions could more than double the resources available over a ten-year window for a handful of USDA conservation programs that help farmers practice climate-smart and ecologically sensitive farming, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). 

Increasing funding for these popular and effective conservation programs is one of the quickest and most practical ways to improve climate resilience and equip farmers and ranchers to ensure that agriculture is part of the solution to climate change. We’ll be watching closely to see whether these provisions make it into the final bill. 

Billions allocated towards research to advance food security, agricultural innovation

The committee voted to invest $7.75B into agricultural research to advance the American food and agriculture system’s global competitiveness, innovation, infrastructure, food security, diversity, and climate change resilience. With climate change expected to present serious challenges to our ability to grow the food and other agricultural products we need, this funding represents a much-needed investment in innovation to help farmers adapt to and withstand climate impacts while continuing to feed the world’s growing population. Included within this funding is more than $1.3B dedicated towards building a diverse and equitable pipeline of talent in the agricultural sector via funding for Minority Serving Institutions and diversity-focused scholarship programs.  

Wildfire prevention, forest resilience get additional funding 

Lawmakers also voted to allocate additional funding towards activities that will help prevent wildfires, protect and preserve forests, and improve our ability to accurately measure their carbon storage potential. Funding includes: 

  • $14B for wildfire prevention across the National Forest System and adjacent lands
  • $9 billion in forest restoration and wildfire resilience grants for non-federal lands
  • Millions of dollars in payments to forest owners and operators for implementing climate-smart practices
  • Grant funding to support the participation of underserved foresters and non-industrial forest landowners in emerging environmental markets
  • Investments in research related to climate adaptation, carbon monitoring technologies, the carbon sequestration and storage value of different forest practices

In conjunction with the wildfire preparedness funding advanced by the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, the wildfire and forestry activities funded here will help target a dangerous and growing risk to public health: wildfires and wildfire smoke. Research on carbon monitoring and forest carbon storage will help equip foresters and landowners with the tools and information needed to maximize both the climate benefits of their forests and their bottom line. These investments in the forestry sector will also generate significant economic benefits for rural communities, helping to support up to 23 jobs per $1 million invested.

Sept 9: House committee votes to invest billions in creating jobs and updating schools with a climate twist. 

On Thursday, the House Education and Labor Committee voted in favor of legislation to modernize the country’s schools and support workforce development and employment opportunities, each with an emphasis on combating and adapting to climate change. Here are the highlights:

Funding for clean energy workforce development

Lawmakers voted to invest $10 billion in workforce development and employment opportunities for high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industry sectors or occupations, including clean energy, infrastructure, and transportation. An additional $2.5 billion would be invested in jobs and apprenticeship programs, including training for careers in environmental resiliency, remediation, or mitigation. 

The transition to a clean energy economy is expected to create millions of jobs, with some analyses estimating up to 25 million net jobs created at its peak. Training and workforce development programs, like those advanced here, can help prepare communities to take advantage of the employment opportunities created by this transition.

Additional funding for Justice40 and fossil fuel communities in transition

Beyond the more general workforce development funding described above, lawmakers also provided more targeted funding for workforce opportunities with potential benefits for environmental justice and equity. 

Under the bill passed by the committee, AmeriCorps’ Corporation for National and Community Service would receive $1.3B, including funding to engage in activities related to environmental resiliency, remediation, or migration. AmeriCorps would be required to direct 50% of its grants to entities which serve or represent low-income communities, tribal and indigenous communities, and communities experiencing or at risk of experiencing adverse health and environmental conditions. Moreover, it would be required to incorporate diversity considerations and procedural justice practices in its engagement with communities. These funds represent an acknowledgement of environmental injustices and inequitable benefit allocation, and are a down-payment on the President’s pledge to ensure that 40% of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments benefit disadvantaged communities.

The committee included an additional $16 billion for assisting dislocated workers, including those affected by the clean energy transition. In our research series on fairness for workers and communities, we identify financial assistance for dislocated workers as a critical area for federal action. This funding will help to ensure that communities historically dependent on the fossil fuel economy receive the support they need to thrive in a low-carbon economy.

Schools get funds to invest in clean energy, climate resilience

The committee voted to invest $82 billion in modernizing public school infrastructure. Eligible expenditures include investments in climate resiliency, energy and water efficiency, renewable energy, reducing exposure to toxic substances, and emergency preparedness for natural disasters. 

Sept 9: House committee boosts funding for clean energy innovation, climate science.  

On Thursday, the House Science Space & Technology Committee (HSST) approved legislation that would significantly increase funding for climate and clean energy science, research, and development. Here are the highlights:  

Clean energy innovation gets a 22% funding increase

The HSST bill includes a much-needed funding boost for clean energy RD&D, including: 

  • $3.3 billion for clean energy applied research and development activities at DOE, including $1.1 billion for renewable energy demonstration projects 
  • $2 billion to Office of Science research and development with $70 million designated for clean energy manufacturing research
  • $10.4 billion for upgrades to Office of Science National Labs

Reaching our climate goals will require rapid technological innovation to lower the costs and improve the performance of the clean energy technologies we have today, and to develop and commercialize the nascent technologies we will need to decarbonize fully. According to the IEA, over a third of emissions reductions needed to meet international climate goals will come from technologies currently at the prototype or demonstration phase. 

Recognizing this, many groups, including EDF, have called for at least a doubling of federal clean energy innovation funding within the decade. The investments in this bill would be a critical step towards that goal and towards developing technological solutions to the climate crisis, reducing harmful pollution, and expanding access to affordable clean energy.

Climate science gets more funding

Climate science and modeling efforts also received a funding boost in the HSST bill, including: 

  • $1.2 billion for climate modeling and research at NOAA
  • $765 million for climate resilience and adaptation research at NOAA
  • $264 million for climate change modeling and research at EPA, with an emphasis on mitigating emissions and reducing impacts
  • $388 million for NASA-related climate research

These funds will enable us to continue to improve our understanding of climate change and its impacts on communities and public health. 

Sept 9: House advances investments in resilience, extreme weather preparedness, prepares to tackle emissions on public lands.

On Thursday, the House Natural Resource Committee (HNR) took an important step towards protecting communities and natural resources by advancing legislation out of committee that would make investments in climate adaptation, resilience, and natural disaster preparedness, which will have significant positive benefits for job creation, environmental justice, and public health. Here are the highlights:     

Coastal resilience, adaptation, & extreme weather preparedness get funding

The HNR bill includes significant funding for coastal resilience and adaptation and extreme weather preparedness, including:

  • $9.5 billion for coastal and Great Lakes restoration and technical assistance for communities to implement adaptation measures and restore natural ecosystems that help protect against sea level rise, coastal storms and flooding
  • $550 million for coastal flooding and sea level rise data collection, mapping updates, and decision-support tools
  • $100 million to the Fish and Wildlife service to aid in protecting and preparing habitats and species for extreme weather events
  • $100 million for important climate adaptation research centers through the United States Geological Survey

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster this summer, and climate change is only expected to exacerbate this trend, making the need for investments in climate resilience and extreme weather preparedness more important than ever. Communities and governments need accurate flood models and forecasting to understand their risks, improve their plans, and make smarter investments in critical infrastructure to protect people and businesses from the impacts of extreme weather fueled by climate change. 

A host of health issues have been linked to major flooding events in the United States, including increased risk of intestinal infectious disease, asthma exacerbation events, CO poisoning, dehydration, and pregnancy complications, sometimes up to months following the event.  Recent analyses show historically redlined neighborhoods are at greater risk of flooding. Preparation for extreme weather events is vital for protecting communities and safeguarding public health, and the provisions in this bill will provide much needed assistance to communities moving forward. 

Wildfire preparedness on rural, tribal lands gets much-needed funding

The HNR bill includes much needed funding to combat wildfires, including $900 million for the Bureau of Land Management for increased wildfire research and preparedness, especially for rural areas. Within this funding, $100 million is earmarked to address wildfire risk on tribal lands.

Wildfires have serious negative impacts on public health. Exposure to wildfire smoke worsens symptoms of common chronic diseases that affect a large proportion of the population including asthma, COPD, and cardiovascular disease. Exposure during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth. Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant mortality and infants that survive are at an increased risk of life-long respiratory and neurological problems.

While wildfires are expected in the West, climate change has increased the size and intensity of wildfires. These investments will help combat this increasing risk to public health.

Funding to cut methane emissions on public land

The House Natural Resources markup includes several important and long needed reforms to how the oil and gas industry is managed on our public lands. One such provision would increase the amount of money oil and gas operators on public lands need to set aside upfront to pay for plugging costs to reduce methane emissions down the road. Another would charge royalties on all natural gas produced on public land, including methane that is vented or flared, to improve stewardship of this resource. 

Combined with the $4.7 billion for orphan well clean up in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, and the critical methane regulations being developed by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) these provisions will save the federal government and taxpayers money, protect communities as well as their air and water,  and combat climate change. And they will create good paying jobs right where they are needed most. A newly-released survey from Datu Research showed that the methane mitigation industry’s service sector has nearly doubled in size in the past four years alone, with the manufacturing sector having grown by one-third since 2014. Along with the potential for future expansion, this rapid growth is creating jobs with starting salaries 10% more than the national average, as over 75% of manufacturing firms and nearly 90% of service firms anticipate hiring more employees once new federal methane rules are in place. The sector is poised to dramatically expand operations and services as the Biden administration prepares nationwide rules to limit pollution. 

Job-creating Civilian Climate Corps gets funding

The HNR bill includes over $3 billion to fund a Civilian Climate Corps, which would employ young people to work on projects to improve community adaptation, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery from natural disasters and other climate-related events. The Civilian Climate Corps will provide much needed job training opportunities to help people get back to work and build the skills they need to get high-paying jobs in ecosystem restoration and resilience fields across the country. The committee included $500 million for a Tribal Civilian Climate Corps. 

Restoration and resilience investments will also help confront the climate crisis by naturally sequestering more carbon and bolstering community resilience to wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding; advance environmental justice by removing pollution from our air, water, and soils; creating jobs in rural communities by improving productivity of working lands and growing the outdoor recreation economy; and recover imperiled wildlife species by restoring degraded habitat. In doing so, it will support workers in industries and regions affected disproportionately by the pandemic, such as agriculture, forestry, ranching, energy, and tourism.

U.S. fisheries and oceans get a boost

The bill includes key resources for NOAA Fisheries, injecting much needed funding into science-based stock assessments ($200 million) and the use of electronic technologies that improve data collection on fishing vessels ($75 million). Effective fisheries management requires having the best information possible when making management decisions. As climate change continues to reshape our oceans and how we think about sustainable U.S. fisheries, improved data will be critical in managing our fisheries in a way that reflects conditions on the water. Coupled with the $160 million that is also included in the bill to improve working waterfronts for fishing and coastal communities, these investments will hopefully solidify an economically viable, environmentally conscious, and climate resilient domestic fishing industry now and into the future.

The bill also includes $95 million for blue carbon research and mapping.

Sept 2: House Committee approves $12 billion for federal fleet electrification.

On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee voted to include $12 billion to electrify the General Services Administration and United States Postal Service vehicle fleets. The Committee is the first to report out legislative text. 

The federal government is the largest fleet operator in the United States, and can lead the way in transitioning to zero-emissions vehicles and electrifying our transportation sector. This funding will make an important contribution towards fully electrifying our federal vehicle fleet, reducing pollution, and building out charging stations and infrastructure across the country. 

The federal government’s purchasing power can also be leveraged to move markets towards clean, American-made materials. Beyond these exciting vehicle fleet electrification efforts, this infrastructure package presents an opportunity to encourage the federal government to procure clean construction materials, like low-carbon cement, and reduce emissions in GSA buildings.


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One Comment

  1. Thomas L Brewer
    Posted November 11, 2021 at 4:00 am | Permalink

    Your coverage of US congressional developments on climate change bills is truly excellent. I recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in US climate policymaking – a process that is often perplexing, confusing, exasperating and more. Thanks.