Energy & Environment

Pelosi says it would be a ‘dereliction of duty’ if infrastructure goes in ‘wrong direction’ on climate

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks to reporters after a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.
Greg Nash

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday emphasized the importance of tackling climate change through infrastructure legislation as she seeks to move both a bipartisan bill and a more climate-intensive Democrat-only measure.

Her comments come amid uncertainty as to whether the Senate will pass the more climate-heavy bill that she’s trying to move alongside the bipartisan one — and as progressive threaten to torpedo a planned Thursday vote on the bipartisan bill. 

But in new comments, Pelosi and other Democrats reiterated commitment to addressing climate change, saying it would be a “dereliction of duty” to take things in the “wrong direction.”

“It’s a moral issue to pass the planet on to future generations in a responsible way, so in my view,… it would be a dereliction of duty to build infrastructure that takes us in the wrong direction instead of the positive direction,” she said during a press conference.

A group of progressive Democrats have threatened to vote against the Senate-passed bipartisan bill while the upper chamber still debates the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion package, which is expected to have the bulk of climate investments — including clean energy tax credits, a methane pollution fee for oil and gas and a program that would pay utilities to switch to cleaner energy sources. 

For some lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, clean energy provisions are among the sticking points. 

The program for utilities, called a Clean Electricity Performance Program, has met particular opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) with the crucial swing vote telling CNN that it “makes no sense.”

But, during and after Tuesday’s press conference, Democrats expressed some optimism that the party would be able to get its agenda across the finish line. 

“I’ve heard a little bit of skepticism but I haven’t heard any line drawing or anything like that,” Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) told reporters after the press conference when asked about the performance program. “This is hopefully what they’re talking about at the White House.”

Castor, who chairs the House’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, meanwhile, expressed skepticism that a separate carbon price mechanism would make it into the House legislation. 

“Many of the senators have been advocates of a carbon tax and it’s not surprising that they would raise it again, but I think it’s unlikely at this point,” she said.  

“Over on the House side we had…committee markups. All of those options were out there; we decided no, the way to go is through tax incentives, a clean energy payment plan and a methane fee,” she added. 

Tags $3.5 trillion bill clean energy Infrastructure Joe Manchin Kathy Castor Nancy Pelosi

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