Forward-Looking Infrastructure Bills Advance in Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two new bills highlight the importance of building a comprehensive infrastructure plan that centers climate, resilience, workers, and local communities. The bills, marked up by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Finance Committee yesterday — the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 and the Clean Energy for America Act of 2021, respectively — will pave the way for progress on climate-centered infrastructure.

“Upgrading our infrastructure, reducing emissions and creating resilient communities is vital to ensuring a future where both people and wildlife can thrive,” said Abby Tinsley, associate vice president of policy and government affairs at the National Wildlife Federation. “Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Carper and Ranking Member Capito, the bipartisan Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act includes an $18 billion climate title, natural infrastructure and climate resilience, and $350 million for wildlife crossings. These are critical pieces of a 21st-century infrastructure bill. The Finance Committee’s actions represent a significant step forward for addressing climate change and moving toward a carbon-free economy. We appreciate the leadership of Chairman Wyden for advancing the Clean Energy for America Act, which would replace existing tax credits with simpler, technology-neutral credits for clean energy generation, and boost investment in electric vehicles and clean energy manufacturing.”   

“We are also grateful to Senators Casey, Bennet and Brown for advancing language in the modified Finance Committee mark up that would add tax credits for clean power deployed in energy transition areas with high carbon intensity,” added Shannon Heyck-Williams, director of climate and energy policy at the Federation. “Clean energy should ‘go where the carbon is’ for maximum climate benefit and to help diversify local economies historically dependent on fossil fuels. This proposal is an excellent complement to the technology-neutral approach offered by Chairman Wyden, and should open the door to new clean energy opportunities in more areas of the country.”

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s new transportation reauthorization includes $18 billion in dedicated spending to reduce climate and other pollution, and makes important improvements for better use of natural infrastructure, making transportation systems more resilient to extreme weather, and benefiting community health and safety with cleaner air. It also provides $350 million for life saving wildlife crossings. However, the National Wildlife Federation strongly opposes provisions in the Committee’s bill that would eliminate and weaken NEPA review for transportation projects regardless of their size, complexity, or controversy, and encourages Congress to remove these provisions as the legislation advances.

The Clean Energy for America Act marked up in the Senate Finance Committee replaces the numerous tax credits that exist for various clean energy and clean vehicle technologies with simpler, technology-neutral credits for clean energy generation, electric vehicles, and clean energy manufacturing. By directly tying tax incentives to climate emissions, making them long-duration, and offering the option for direct payment in lieu of a credit, this legislation would supercharge the deployment of clean energy generation needed to meet U.S. climate goals. It also takes a first step toward attaching meaningful labor standards and domestic content requirements to tax credits and includes an extra incentive for projects in disadvantaged communities.

Passage of these two infrastructure components shows welcome progress in realizing a comprehensive infrastructure plan that centers climate, resilience, workers, and local communities, but more is still needed to address the full scope of the nation’s needs.

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