Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan

Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan
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Environmental provisions are a major focus of House Democrats’ new infrastructure plan, which includes proposals relating to water, electric vehicles and rail investments. 

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said at a Wednesday press conference that the plan “has major initiatives that will really encourage clean energy and address climate change.”

The 5-year, $760 billion framework includes plans to spend $50.5 billion on clean water and wastewater infrastructure, $25.4 billion on drinking water and $34.3 billion on clean energy.

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It also aims to develop an electric vehicle charging network with the goal of transitioning to zero-emission vehicles across the country. It seeks to make available charging stations and alternative fueling options for vehicles.

Further, it emphasizes public transit as a way to lower emissions. It proposes increased funding for transit agencies to encourage the use of public transit, investing in zero-emission buses to reduce carbon pollution and investing in the passenger rail network as a “low-carbon option.”

In the area of air travel, the framework calls for incentivizing the development of sustainable aviation fuels and aircraft technology to reduce carbon pollution.

Transportation is the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

On water, Democrats are calling for a $40 billion investment to address local water quality issues, and establishing a new EPA program to deal with chemicals including PFAS. 

They also want to invest in making the electric grid able to better accommodate renewable energy. 

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Green groups expressed optimism about the framework.

“This plan would help us address climate change by making long-overdue investments in transportation, safe drinking water and clean energy, including preparing for more frequent extreme weather events," Stephanie Gidigbi, director of policy and partnerships in the Healthy People & Thriving Communities program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. 

“Done right, this can be a critical down payment on the badly-needed transition to a clean economy that works well for everyone,” Sara Chieffo, the League of Conservation Voters’s vice president of government affairs, said in a statement.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesBridging the digital divide for rural communities more critical than ever Overnight Energy: Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan | Iowans push 2020 candidates on climate | Sanders offers bill on 'forever chemicals' Environment takes center stage in House infrastructure plan MORE (R-Mo.) said he doesn’t agree with “all of the principles” in the framework.

“Any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must incorporate Republican principles as well,” he said in a statement. 

The Democratic plan was unveiled the day after Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled a draft of their new climate plan, which aims for the U.S. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.

That plan would push utilities work toward producing 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050 and require the transportation sector to reduce emissions from both cars and aircraft.