Infrastructure Deal Includes Billions to Fight Climate Change

Source: By Ari Natter, Bloomberg • Posted: Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The bipartisan infrastructure bill heading for a vote in the Senate leaves out many of the sweeping measures to fight global warming sought by the White House and environmentalists, but the 2,702-page measure nonetheless provides for billions of dollars in spending on climate programs.

There’s $21.5 billion to create a new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations within the Energy Department to research carbon capture, hydrogen power and other technologies. Another $16 billion is included for the department to spend on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Billions more in aid would go to climate resiliency projects and combating wildfires.

“We feel like it’s a really solid down payment,” said Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation. “A lot of the funding levels are historic — bigger since anything since the Recovery Act — but given the moment we are in we still need to go further.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber would be ready to vote on the $550 billion bill “in a matter of days.” Once the Senate acts final congressional action won’t come until after the House returns from a recess in September. It would provide the biggest infusion of U.S. federal spending on infrastructure in decades.

Read more: Nuclear Plants Targeted For $6 Billion Lifeline in Senate Bill

Some of the flashier climate measures President Joe Biden had sought were left on the cutting-room floor amid Republican opposition. For instance, it doesn’t include a mandate to require utilities to produce power using only carbon-free sources. And Biden’s call to include $174 billion for electric vehicle initiatives was left out of the bill, though it does include at least $7.5 billion for chargers. Also absent from the legislation is an extension of tax credits for solar, wind and other forms of clean power estimated to be worth $400 billion.

Senate Democrats and the Biden administration have said they would use a separate tax-and-spending bill to try to enact those measures.

The infrastructure bill includes $8.1 billion for grid infrastructure and resiliency, $7.5 billion on carbon capture and other “fossil energy and carbon management.” It includes $140 million to research the use of rare earth minerals for such things as electric vehicle batteries and renewables and $2.1 billion to finance pipelines and other infrastructure needed to carry captured carbon emissions from power plants and other industrial sources.

More: Senate on Path for Vote on Infrastructure Bill This Week

The bill also includes $3.5 billion for the federal flood insurance program, $11.3 billion to clean up abandoned mines, and $1 billion to help restore and protect the Great Lakes.

Environmentalists won’t like other provisions, such as a study on the number of jobs lost and the impact on energy prices from Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL oil pipeline, as well as a “cradle to grave” study on the environmental impact of electric vehicles.

The funding level also falls short of the White House’s call to replace all lead service water lines in the U.S. and what environmentalists say is needed to fund electric school buses.

“While the bipartisan infrastructure package makes some necessary investments, it also has some concerning provisions we will work to improve as the process moves forward,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, the League of Conservation Voters’ senior vice president of government affairs, said in a statement advocating more stringent climate measures in a reconciliation package. “And it is clear the deal does not meet the moment on climate or justice.”