Following a summer of extreme heat, drought and political gridlock, the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday passed the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376), which includes groundbreaking levels of investment to tackle climate change, clear the air we breathe, clean up toxic sites and protect our lands, waters and wildlife.
Investments to tackle the climate crisis include:
• A 10-year extension and expansion of clean energy tax incentives, which would decrease the cost of installing rooftop solar by up to 30% and take up to $12,500 off the cost of an electric vehicle.
• Rebates for home energy efficiency and electrification projects.
• A new program to reduce methane emissions, which are more than 80 times more potent in warming the planet than carbon dioxide over the short term.
• Funding to electrify U.S. Postal Service vehicles and medium and heavy-duty vehicles, such as garbage trucks or school buses. Fully electrifying USPS would eliminate the equivalent of 370,000 fossil fuel-powered cars from the road each year, and the bill provides nearly enough funding to do so.
Additional environmental provisions include:
• Nearly $10 billion to replace lead pipes and address lead pollution in schools, daycares and rural communities. Combined with the $15 billion provided in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, this funding could replace approximately half of the nation’s lead service lines.
• Reinstatement of a Superfund “polluter pays” tax, which will go toward the cleanup of America’s more than 1,300 toxic sites. Between the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act, Congress will have restored two out of three “polluter pays” Superfund taxes. This is critical as Pennsylvania ranks near the top nationally for the number of Superfund sites (with 90 in total).
• Restoration of protections to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which was opened to oil and gas drilling in 2017.
• Permanent protections for the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico from offshore oil leasing.
Following the vote, PennEnvironment Field Director Flora Cardoni issued the following statement:
“We know what we need to do to tackle the climate crisis, but too often political gridlock and outdated ways of thinking get in our way, especially when it comes to taking national action.
“That’s why today’s progress in Congress on the Build Back Better Act, the largest-ever federal investment in climate solutions, is particularly worth celebrating. Finding agreement on such a monumental bill hasn’t always been easy, but through every twist and turn of the legislative process, Pennsylvanians have been solid in their support for clean energy and bold action to address climate change.”
PennPIRG’s State Advocate Emma Horst-Martz issued the following statement:
“As the saying goes, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. But when it comes to pollution and climate change, we’re short-changing future generations. There’s a lot to do to fix the damage, but today we can celebrate a big step toward making amends thanks to historic investments in lead remediation, clean energy, electric vehicles, and new programs to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.”