House Dems Make Climate Front and Center in Infrastructure Plan

Peter DeFazio

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Image: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Yesterday House Democrats released their $760 billion infrastructure plan called the “Moving Forward Framework.” The plan proposes to rebuild the nation’s highways, airports, bridges, and other critical infrastructure but notably has an emphasis on climate change preparedness. As Politico reported, House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) says the plan will be a radical departure from highway-focused transportation bills and will put clean energy and climate “resilience” at the center. DeFazio went on to say, 

 

The Climate Scope: The climate change component of the infrastructure plan will include everything from making federal buildings carbon-neutral to transitioning to renewable fuels for aviation. It will also include a plan to improve rail and public transit to help eliminate the needs for plane and car trips. Additionally, Democrats are hopeful that a push for more climate-friendly building materials, like concrete with coal ash that “actually absorbs carbon” can help gain support of their Republican colleagues as this can save taxpayers money.

Makings of Bipartisanship: DeFazio hopes that the plan can gain Republican backing as many of the climate resiliency aspects benefit American communities in blue and red districts. It’s still unclear how President Trump will respond. As the New York Times explained,

Democrats will also renew calls for bipartisan talks with the White House to forge an agreement on infrastructure, the aide said, including a mechanism to pay for it. But after they struck an initial deal with Mr. Trump last spring to pursue a $2 trillion package, talks faltered over how to finance the initiative, and the president stormed out of a meeting on the topic, declaring that he could not work with Democrats until they stopped investigating him.

The Response: Thus far, environmental groups have applauded the plan. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued the following statement,

“ 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.”

Why This Matters: You’ve probably read before that our infrastructure is decaying–and it’s true. While much of our infrastructure is aging, climate change is also putting added stress on bridges, roads, levies, and buildings.  We have an opportunity to use new infrastructure to help sequester carbon and also prepare us for a greener future, albeit one with the inevitable effects of climate change. One noteworthy thing about the Democrats’ plan is that there is an emphasis on moving away from single-occupancy vehicles by bolstering public transit–an issue some Democratic presidential nominees have criticized for overlooking in their own climate plans.

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