Ohio Environmental Council, August 4, 2021
Authors: Stephen Crouch, Energy Intern; Spencer Dirrig, Political Director; Lupe Franco, Water Fellow; Melanie Houston, Drinking Water Director
Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators struck a deal on a key infrastructure package that has been negotiated over the last few months. This $550 billion deal, supported by the Biden Administration, includes funding for electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and fleets, replacing lead pipes, and environmental remediation of legacy pollution. While this represents significant progress, it still falls short of the bold American Jobs Plan proposed by the Biden administration earlier this year.
The Initial American Jobs Proposal
Earlier this year, the Biden administration unveiled a historic $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan (AJP). This plan represented a massive investment to move the country forward on climate action and job growth. The AJP promised to provide major upgrades to our traditional public infrastructure, including the full replacement of all lead service lines for drinking water, and the renewal of our roads and bridges. This proposal also embraced a more comprehensive vision for our nation’s infrastructure by including investments in the expansion of broadband and renewable energy development for communities around the country.
With the understanding that all communities and people deserve access to clean and safe drinking water, the AJP called for important investments in water infrastructure. The plan included $45 billion to finally rid America’s drinking water system of lead. This investment is critical for Ohio, as we rank second in the country for the number of lead services lines still in the ground, which poses a public health risk for Ohioans.
The AJP also included ambitious energy provisions that would help Ohio combat climate change while creating good-paying jobs in the growing renewable energy sector. The plan would modernize our power grid infrastructure and invest in electric vehicles.
The AJP also included the country’s first federal clean energy standard to help reach the President’s goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035. A national clean energy standard would be especially helpful in Ohio, where state clean energy standards were repealed in 2019 under the scandal-ridden House Bill 6.
Finally, the AJP proposed the creation of thousands of union jobs for the purpose of conserving public lands and waters through the creation of a new Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Today’s Story: A Tale of Two Bills
Congress has now taken some of the key elements of the bold plan and split it between two pieces of legislation: the bipartisan infrastructure deal (requiring 60 votes in the Senate) and a budget reconciliation package (requiring only 50 votes in the Senate).
(1) The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
As of Thursday, July 29, Congress has taken the bold step to put the major components of AJP into legislation. A bipartisan group of Senators have reached a $550 billion infrastructure deal.
This bipartisan infrastructure deal is a scaled-back version of President Biden’s priorities for “hard” infrastructure—including $55 billion for drinking water infrastructure and $15 billion for electric vehicles.
(2) Budget Reconciliation Package
Congressional Democrats intend to wrap their remaining climate priorities into the proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, which is not subject to the filibuster barrier and would only require fifty Democratic votes in the Senate.
While the details of the budget bill are still under negotiation, some have called it the “most consequential piece of legislation since the 1930s.” The bill will not only invest heavily in climate action, but a slew of President Biden’s priorities for jobs, healthcare, and childcare.
The Road Ahead
While the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill goes through the Senate process, attention in the House will shift to passing the budget reconciliation package.
However, the budget package faces several challenges once it moves to the Senate for consideration: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has expressed concern with climate provisions that he perceives will hurt the fossil fuel industry. Another key swing vote, Senator Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ), is wary of the bill’s $3.5 trillion price tag despite progressives pushing for a $6 trillion package in the beginning. Also, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that she will not agree to move the bipartisan infrastructure bill until a budget blueprint for the multitrillion-dollar legislative package is passed by the Senate.
Senate Democrats will need to be in complete agreement for the budget to pass, and many climate priorities are at risk of being cut during negotiations.
Ohio stands to substantially benefit from President Biden’s climate priorities. The American Jobs Plan laid the blueprint for the US to make unprecedented investments in renewable energy, clean water, and good-paying jobs. Ohio is ready and stands to benefit from this bold action.