As December begins, many here in DC are relieved that Congress will not continue an unwanted year-end tradition: flirting with fiscal cliffs. The federal government is now funded through the middle of February, preventing a government shutdown, and the Senate has now reached a deal to increase the debt ceiling, which was set to be exceeded by December 15th. That should clear the way for the Senate’s remaining time before the December recess to be focused entirely on passing the Build Back Better Act.
Build Back Better update
The Build Back Better Act has passed the House! That’s thanks to your advocacy, and thanks to our champions in the House successfully tying Build Back Better to the bipartisan infrastructure bill in negotiations.
Build Back Better now sits in the Senate, where negotiations continue between Democratic leadership and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), likely to be the last vote needed in a split Senate. IPL and our partners are pushing to get the bill passed before the end of the year, and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has endorsed that timeline. But time is getting tight, and the Senate has a long list of priorities for the final weeks of the year. Now is the moment to contact your senators one more time and ask them to pass this vital legislation yet this year.
As a refresher, our top climate and environmental justice priorities in the bill are:
- Clean energy tax credits for wind and solar power. These credits were already a big part of the climate section of the bill, and they got even bigger when Manchin nixed a national Clean Energy Standard—climate advocates were successful in getting most of the funding that would have gone to the CES added to the total funding for clean energy tax credits.
- A fee on methane pollution for fossil fuel companies. This would be a big deal because methane gas (the main component of “natural gas”) is a climate super polluter, with around 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide when it is leaked or vented into the atmosphere by fossil fuel companies.
- Expanding tax credits for electric vehicles, and creating a tax credit for used electric vehicles.
- Funding for environmental justice. The bill text passed by the House does not include clear language for President Biden’s promise that 40% of climate and environmental benefits would go to the communities most affected by fossil fuel pollution—communities that are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and people of color. However, the House version does have significant funding for key environmental justice priorities, including funds to remove every lead water pipe in the country, new environmental justice block grants, cleanup of Superfund sites, and more.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill passed
As part of the November deal that allowed the Build Back Better Act to pass the House, the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed into law. While this bill is not a climate bill and primarily focuses on things like roads, bridges, ports, and airports, it does include a few long-term IPL priorities.
- Funding to clean up Superfund sites and other legacy pollution, including $11 billion for abandoned mine lands. This amounts to 11 times the investment in abandoned mine lands IPL has long pushed for through the RECLAIM Act, a bill that has stalled in Congress for many years.
- Investments to improve and expand Amtrak service
- Some funding for clean drinking water (although only a quarter of the funding needed to remove lead water pipes)
- Investments in the development of a 21st century electrical grid
- Building electric vehicle charging stations
- A new grant program at the Department of Energy to support nonprofits, including faith communities, in energy efficiency work. More details and instructions on how to apply coming in the future!
These provisions are important, and the funding for abandoned mine lands is especially encouraging, as it would more than cover the funding that IPL has long sought through the RECLAIM Act. Collectively, however, this package falls short of the investments needed and does little to address the climate crisis.
That’s why we’re so grateful to all the faithful advocates across the country keeping the pressure up to pass the Build Back Better Act into law. Hopefully, we’re in the home stretch.