Climate on the 2022 Ballot

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 09 Nov 2022 01:37:00 GMT


Prop 30, Tax on Income Above $2 Million for Zero-Emissions Vehicles and Wildfire Prevention Initiative

Proposition 30 would raise income taxes by 1.75% on Californians who make more than $2 million annually, spending 80% of the estimated $3.5 billion in yearly revenue on electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and rebates for EV purchases, and the remaining 20% on wildfire fighter hiring and training. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) would be directed to prioritize low-income Californians in allocating EV rebates.

California governor Gavin Newsom has decried Prop 30 as a “Trojan horse” initiative and cut an ad opposing it. Newsom’s argument points to Lyft’s substantial funding for the measure, motivated by its desire to have the wealthy subsidize its compliance with a new CARB rule requiring 90% of ride mileage to come from EVs by 2030. It’s a reasonable complaint, but curious coming from someone who was silent two years ago when Lyft spent millions to overturn a California labor law to stop misclassifying drivers.

With support from the California Democratic Party, many labor organizations, billionaire Tom Steyer, legislators like state senator Henry Stern and Rep. Ro Khanna, and environmental organizations, polls show Prop 30 in a pretty strong position to pass (albeit with gradually declining support). We will see if Prop 30’s support holds up against Newsom, the California Chamber of Commerce and Teachers Association, and scolding editorials from the San Jose Mercury News and the LA Times.


Amendment 1, Disregard Flood Resistance Improvements in Property Value Assessments Measure

If approved by 60% of voters, Amendment 1 would exempt expenditures on home flood resilience improvements from property tax value assessments. The measure is meant to encourage flood mitigation investments by Florida homeowners. One third of the 5 million policyholders in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) live in Florida, and 1.7 million Floridians live in an area that is subject to 100-year flood risk— a figure that is projected to grow considerably in the years ahead.

A long-term reauthorization of the NFIP is needed to modernize flood mapping, provide resources for flood mitigation, and expedite the buyout process for many Florida homeowners who really should relocate. But Congress has perpetually “kicked the can” down the road on NFIP reform. Although the Build Back Better Act included significant reforms, that died in the Senate. With the U.S. Congress failing to provide NFIP relief, a near-unanimous vote of the Florida legislature placed Amendment 1 on the ballot.

Lest we give Florida lawmakers too much credit, an emergency session in May utterly failed to address the climate-driven property insurance “meltdown” taking place there. Available reforms to make insurance more affordable, and shore up Florida’s state-funded reinsurance company by taxing corporations rather than individuals, were rejected.


Amendment 2: Temporary Property Tax Change for Disaster Areas Measure

Similar to Amendment 1 in Florida, Georgia’s Amendment 2 would allow temporary property tax relief for any homes that are damaged by climate disasters, if it receives approval from 2/3 of the voters. Georgia has among the most regressive and meager tax systems in the country.

New York

Proposal 1, Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act

If approved, Proposal 1 would authorize $4.2 billion in general obligation bonds for projects dealing with climate change resilience, including wetlands restoration to mitigate sea level rise, heat pumps, electric buses, and other home energy upgrades. 35% of the bond revenue is required to be dedicated to disadvantaged communities. If passed, Prop 1 will be the first environmental bond act that New York voters have seen in 26 years. It was originally slated to be on the 2020 ballot, after former governor Andrew Cuomo pointed to reports citing mounting state infrastructure costs from climate change. After the pandemic caused the bond measure’s postponement, governor Kathy Hochul revived the effort last year, and called for an additional billion dollar in funding, which some legislators felt was still inadequate. The New York Public Interest Group suggested that the bond should follow the “polluter pay” model of past NY environmental bond measures and repeal fossil fuel subsidies, but those calls were not heeded.

Manchin Permit Plan Mimics Rejected Capito-Inhofe Amendment to Inflation Reduction Act

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 09 Sep 2022 13:43:00 GMT

In a press briefing on Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced “we support the permitting reform bill” backed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), even though full text of the legislation has not been publicly released.

Remarkably, Jean-Pierre criticized the existence of the permitting process, saying, “Permitting always delays a new solar and new wind projects are among the longest in our — in our country.” [sic]

In August, Manchin told West Virginia Metro News that his permit plan “is something the Republican Party has wanted for the last five to seven years I’ve been with them.” Explaining the plan to attach his permit bill to the government-funding continuing resolution, “It either keeps the country open, or we shut down the government. That’ll happen Sept. 30, so let’s see how that politics plays out.”

Manchin expects the support of Republicans who are the strongest advocates of the fossil-fuel industry in the Senate, such as Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Boozman of Arkansas, and John Barrasso of North Dakota, who have, as he noted, attempted to restrict environmental review of energy projects for years.

Inhofe and Barrasso are notoriously the most extreme proponents of climate denial in the Senate.

The exact language of the plan, expected to be released today, is unclear. As of year, there is only a one-page summary of Manchin’s plan and leaked draft legislation with an American Petroleum Institute watermark.

Sens. Capito and Inhofe proposed an amendment to the Inflation Reduction Act that would have compelled the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and greatly restricted environmental review, as Manchin’s one-pager intends. As expected, the amendment was ruled out of order for a reconciliation bill and not voted on.

Atmospheric methane continues to rocket up at record rates

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 08 Apr 2022 17:34:00 GMT

Atmospheric methane continues to rocket up at record rates, NOAA reported yesterday. As fracking booms, methane levels increased by 17 parts per billion in 2021, breaking the 2020 record of 15.3 ppb. Concentrations of this powerful greenhouse pollutant are now 162 percent of their pre-industrial levels, as the Biden administration pushes for more natural gas production and export.

I will take this moment to remind readers that the EPA is undercounting methane pollution by 77 percent.

The essential Kate Aronoff castigates the incoherence of Democrats in Congress who claim to care about the climate crisis begging oil CEOs to increase fossil-fuel production, instead of acting to take their billions in windfall profits and stop their greenhouse pollution:

Appealing to these CEOs’ better angels is pointless. Although they hand fossil fuel companies billions in subsidies each year, American policymakers mostly confine themselves to begging or berating them into doing what they want.

As Adam Tooze writes in his review of three recent books by Andreas Malm:

To harp on the climate crisis while doing nothing about it is, in the long run, intolerable. Liberals’ failures make Trump look honest. He may deny the science, but at least he’s true to himself.

The EPA is undercounting methane pollution by 77 percent

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 23 Feb 2022 18:35:00 GMT

The oft-repeated claim that the United States has significantly reduced its greenhouse pollution since 2005 by switching from coal to gas depends on the EPA’s official accounting that methane pollution has declined during the fracking boom, an implausible scenario.

Today, the International Energy Agency revealed in a major report that methane pollution from the fossil-fuel industry is 70 percent higher than official figures globally. Their Global Methane Tracker finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been seriously undercounting methane pollution. The IEA estimate of 2021 methane pollution is 77 percent higher than the EPA’s inventory:

United States methane pollution from energy sources in 2021. EPA estimate: 9,600 kT; IEA estimate: 17,000 kT

Not surprisingly, that cancels out all the purported climate benefits of switching electricity production from coal to natural gas.

Furthermore, the U.S. EPA calculates the effect of methane on global warming by using its impact over 100 years, which is about 30 times that of CO2, instead of more scientifically defensible dynamic measures that take into account methane’s 20-year impact, which is 86 times that of CO2.

3/7/20 Update: Russia invaded Ukraine the day after the IEA report dropped, so that may help explain why this report didn’t get too much attention. However, the oil and gas industry are claiming the invasion means we have to drill everywhere, and the Senate Energy Committee found time to attack FERC for regulating methane pollution. So I think there’s capacity to discuss this report and its shattering implications, which include the need for the United States to shut down the fracking boom as fast as humanly possible.

A Review of Neal Stephenson's Termination Shock

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 29 Jan 2022 17:57:00 GMT

“People were expensive; the way to display, or to enjoy, great wealth was to build an environment that could only have been wrought, and could only be sustained from one hour to the next, by unceasing human effort.” — Neal Stephenson, Termination Shock

One of my favorite techniques in science fiction is taking pop-culture jokes seriously, expanding upon their ramifications with character, setting and story. Bruce Sterling’s 1998 gem Distraction opens with members of a local Air Force base holding a shake-down bake sale.

Neal Stephenson’s 2021 stratospheric-geoengineering treatise Termination Shock launches with an attack by “30-50 feral hogs,” inspired by a tweet that launched a memetic debate over whether and how much the threat of backyard feral hogs are “legit” or ridiculous.

Stephenson convincingly demonstrates that the feral hogs overrunning Texas are a demonic scourge, in an extended opening sequence in which the hereditary queen of the Netherlands, Frederika Mathilde Louisa Saskia, barely survives a plane crash caused by a roving herd.

The herd is led by a Moby-Dick-esque beast known as Snout, who killed the young daughter of one of the other main protagonists, Rufus “Red” Grant, in his yard in rural Texas. Having tracked Snout’s herd for years, Grant saves the queen and kills his nemesis. He then helps her make her rendezvous with the cornpone oil billionaire T.R. “McHooligan” Schmidt, who has begun secretly launching sulfur rockets into the stratosphere to dim the sun. This rogue effort is a cheap way to simulate the effects of nuclear winter enough to counteract the deadly buildup of greenhouse pollution, as long as the rockets keep going.

If that sounds like an enjoyable start to a novel, then you probably have read other books by Stephenson. Unfortunately, it’s by far the most dynamic sequence of the book. The beginning thrill ride is pretty much a headfake, as the book switches erratically to its main topic of geoengineering and becomes, even by Stephenson’s standards, boring and talky.3

The vast majority of the rest of the 720-page tome offers an extremely good sense of what it would be like to hang out with techno-billionaires like Nathan Myhrvold and Jeff Bezos, offering several practical tips on how to stay on their good side (he’s worked for both).

In interviews, Stephenson has said that Termination Shock is meant to describe “the geopolitical reaction” to global warming and the potential decision to engage in geoengineering. His goal was to have “realistic characters having realistic arguments” about geoengineering, in order to “make it a topic of conversation.”

I do think this is a helpful entry in spurring that needed conversation. But on its own, the book is less a serious investigation of the geopolitical ramifications of geoengineering than a monologue from a globe-trotting techno-enthusiast. I do wish his characters had any real psychological differences. It’s great to be reminded that gender, race, and wealth are irrelevant to whether you are a reliable, hyper-competent, semi-horny techno-enthusiast MacGyver, but it’s genuinely difficult to tell the characters apart when they’re talking.

So while it goes into remarkable detail on the mechanisms of the sulfur-launcher and the Netherlands’ movable seawalls, Shock’s political analysis doesn’t go much deeper than: it’s hard to cut carbon pollution, Greens don’t want us to do anything, geoengineering might benefit some regions and might harm others.

For example: by necessity of making the rogue billionaire geoengineer something of a good-guy protagonist, Termination Shock is blithely optimistic about the reliability of climate-model downscaling of the impacts of stratospheric sulfur injection. There’s the repeated implication that there would be clear regional winners and losers, as opposed to new and different forms of anthropogenic climate chaos.

As a novel, _Termination Shock_—whose truly global scope may be its strongest attraction— feels a bit too much like a collection of magazine-length travelogues; the stitching still shows. That said, the up-to-the-minute references to COVID and QAnon and the January 6 insurrection imply that awkwardness may be deliberate. Stephenson is okay with breaking the fourth wall, reminding the reader that the novel’s characters don’t exist but that the real world very much does. Set vaguely in the future, Shock is fundamentally a 700-page essay of Stephenson’s opinions at and about the moment of writing (June 2021).

As explicitly-of-the-moment climate-politics tracts go, I greatly preferred Swedish author Andreas Malm’s Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency, written and published a year earlier. It too has great cover art, punchy writing, and covers our global climate politics with greater insight and depth in less than a third as many pages.

However, I enjoyed Termination Shock much more than Kim Stanley Robinson’s Ministry for the Future, a 560-page assemblage which has been heralded as a serious work of climate fiction. I won’t go into my feelings about Ministry here (if you’re deeply interested, here’s a thread), but one element of comparison is worth raising. Robinson has India do stratospheric sulfur injection without sparking World War III, whereas Stephenson has the U.S. (technically, a rogue American) do it. So, I guess they’re both optimists. Unlike Ministry, though, Shock doesn’t even try to imagine turning off the fossil-fuel spigot.

So far, of the three white western-American-male climate SF novels I’ve read recently —_Termination Shock_, Ministry for the Future, and Paolo Bacigalupi’s Water Knife, written in 2016—I feel that only Water Knife fully worked as a novel and an analysis of politics and society under global warming.

Some of that may simply be because Bacigalupi didn’t make technocrats, royalty, or billionaires his protagonists. They certainly exist in his narrative and shape it, but their stories are, in the end, kind of boring. Like Ministry and Shock, Water Knife begins with heart-stopping action, but then doesn’t let up. It’s a much more harrowing read, but I think it would be a mistake to think of it as dystopic and the others as optimistic—they’re stories focusing at different moments of different people’s lives on one functionally equivalent near-future hothouse Earth.

I’ve been an admirer and enthusiast of Stephenson since reading Snow Crash when it came out in 1992. It was a particular delight to discover his earlier books, The Big U and Zodiac, were thinly fictionalized depictions of his and his friends’ adventures in my hometown of Boston. He was literally one of those cool weird environmentalist techno-geeks I admired as a teenager.

Termination Shock has been described as Stephenson’s first global-warming book, but Zodiac was a roman à clef about a Greenpeace activist, Snow Crash depicts hordes of climate refugees swarming a newly temperate Alaska, Diamond Age a post-21st-century-World-War-III global society, Seveneves the apocalypse. So it would be better to say this is the first time Stephenson’s work has been branded as climate fiction.

The books also track Stephenson’s progress in society, from the scrappy dirtbag protagonists of the Big U, Zodiac, and Snow Crash to the scrappy dirtbags, billionaires, and queens of Reamde, Fall, and Termination Shock. He writes what he knows!

It is fun to read T.R. Schmidt’s plot-driving actions, magpie personality, and love for explanatory bloviation as a stand-in for the author as he constructed this novel. This, for example, could be authorial self-description: “T.R. was the living embodiment of what was now denoted ADHD. He went off on tangents, a small percentage of which made money.”

The tangent-prone Stephenson really can write action sequences! And depictions of complex machinery! He and his characters have a great sense of humor and a deep appreciation for cool. And every so often he turns out a gem of a sentence like this:

“It was one of those insane statistics about the scale of America that had once made the United States seem like an omnipotent hyperpower and now made it seem like a beached whale.”

To return this to where I started: Termination Shock shares a good amount of plot geography with Sterling’s Distraction, which also primarily takes place in the fetid Texas-Louisiana zone of a broken-empire America and gives the Netherlands a starring role in weird war. I believe that the quarter-century-old Distraction is still one of the strongest climate-politics SF novels extant, and re-read it about once a year. Each sentence crackles, the ideas come fast and furious, the politics are meaningful, the characters compelling, the plot tight and satisfying. I’d love to read more like that.

Buried In NDAA, Fossil-Fueled Provision Directs State Department To Promote Fossil-Fuel Industry

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 29 Sep 2021 21:23:00 GMT

Buried within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 (H.R. 4350) passed last week, the Democratic House of Representatives approved language creating a new position in the State Department dedicated to promoting oil and fracked gas interests.

The language is taken from the Energy Diplomacy Act (H.R. 1311), introduced by Rep. August Pfluger II (R-Texas) and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), both oil-patch members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The bill establishes an Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, responsible for “protecting and advancing United States energy security interests” and “coordinating energy activities” in the State Department. The position will “support the development of energy resources and the distribution of such resources,” “resolve international disputes regarding the exploration, development, production, or distribution of energy resources,” and “support and coordinate international efforts to alleviate energy poverty.” “Energy poverty” is a fossil-fuel industry term used to promote the development of coal, oil, and gas in the developing world.

It was introduced as part of an amendment to the NDAA on State Department operations (numbered 723 in the Rules Committee list and 286 on the House floor) by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the Foreign Affairs chair and ranking member. It passed the House as one of 111 amendments included in en-bloc amendment 124, agreed to 362 to 59 (roll-call vote 289).

Pfluger is a first-term congressman financed by the oil and gas industry, whose stated “primary concern in Congress is to protect our oil and gas industry from the radical Democrats.” Gonzalez is one of a dwindling number of oil-patch Democrats financed by the oil and gas industry who opposes climate action.

Despite its House passage, the bill will face a pro-forma markup in the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.

While the bill avoids mention of fossil-fueled climate change, it does not preclude the new role from being dedicated to supporting renewable energy development instead of fossil-fuel interests, although the language about foreign energy markets and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative would make little sense in that case.

Climate Justice Components Of Build Back Better Agenda Have Been Pared Back, With Further Cuts Possible

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 28 Sep 2021 17:14:00 GMT

In its reconciliation package, the House of Representatives restored some of Biden’s requested funding for climate justice measures that had been slashed by the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan deal, but massive cuts remain.

If the White House heeds the “no double dip” deal it made with Senate centrists, the House funds will be eliminated.

Two Build Back Better climate-justice programs that were cut in the Senate’s infrastructure package (known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, or BIF) are funded at or above President Biden’s requested levels:

  • Building electric vehicle charging stations, raised $15 billion to $21 billion
  • Replacing the nation’s lead pipes, fully restored to $45 billion

However, most face massive cuts, with no prospect for improvement:

  • Reconnecting minority communities cut off by highway projects, cut 79% from $24 billion to $4.95 billion
  • Investing in electric school buses, cut 63% from $20 billion to $7.5 billion
  • Road safety, including “vision zero” programs to protect pedestrians, cut 45% from $20 billion to $11 billion (only $100 million added)
  • Upgrading and modernizing America’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, cut 40% from $56 billion to $33.7 billion
  • Repairing and modernizing public transit, cut 36% from $85 billion to $54 billion
  • Broadband infrastructure, cut 31% from $100 billion to $69 billion
  • Investing in passenger and freight rail, cut 5% from $80 billion to $76 billion
Furthermore, the House added on additional funding for the programs that act as bailouts for polluters:
  • Capping orphan wells, increased to $18.5 billion, 16% over Biden’s request
  • Brownfield and Superfund, increased to $20 billion, three times Biden’s request

The BIF includes the Civil Nuclear Credit Program, a $6 billion bailout fund for existing nuclear plants.

The Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) is a major climate initiative in the House reconciliation package, establishing a sort of carbon cap-and-trade system for electric utilities with the goal of increasing low-carbon electricity production to 80 percent of the mix by 2030. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has indicated his desire to modify the CEPP to lower its standards to support natural-gas plants.

House Oversight Committee Investigates Fossil Fuel Industry Climate Disinformation Campaign

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 20 Sep 2021 15:20:00 GMT

On Thursday, September 16, the House oversight committee sent letters to U.S. oil executives and to industry trade groups requesting “documents on the reported role of the fossil fuel industry in a long-running, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming.” The committee also announced a hearing set for October 28, 2021 in which the executives were requested to testify.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment, sent the letters to the top executives at ExxonMobil Corporation, BP America Inc., Chevron Corporation, Shell Oil Company, American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” the chairs wrote. “We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change.”

The four companies involved reported nearly $2 trillion in profits between 1990 and 2019. They and the trade groups are now the defendants in a growing number of civil lawsuits from individuals and localities suffering the harms of fossil-fueled climate pollution.

In 2019, Rep. Khanna oversaw a hearing examining the oil industry’s efforts to suppress the truth about climate change.

In 2015, InsideClimateNews and others broke the story of how ExxonMobil led the industry in waging a climate disinformation campaign with full knowledge of the dangers of fossil fuels. Following those reports, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) spoke on the Senate floor calling for a RICO investigation of ExxonMobil’s history of deliberate climate deception. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) called for the Department of Justice to investigate the legality of ExxonMobil’s “sustained deception campaign disputing climate science.”

From the committee’s press release:
Public reporting indicates that these companies and their allies in the fossil fuel industry have worked to prevent serious action on global warming by generating doubt about the documented dangers of fossil fuels and misrepresenting the scale of their efforts to develop alternative energy technologies—similar tactics deployed by the tobacco industry to resist regulation while selling products that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

These strategies of obfuscation and distraction span decades and still continue today. Between 2015 and 2018, the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies reportedly spent $1 billion to promote climate disinformation through “branding and lobbying.”

Fossil fuel companies increasingly outsource lobbying to trade groups, obscuring their own roles in disinformation efforts. Recently, an ExxonMobil lobbyist was caught on video discussing the tactics employed by ExxonMobil to obstruct climate change legislation, including using API and other industry groups as the “whipping boy” to advocate for policy positions that ExxonMobil did not want to be associated with publicly.

The committee requested that the recipients produce documents and communications by September 30, 2021, “related to their organizations’ role in supporting disinformation and misleading the public to prevent action on the climate crisis.”

  • The letter to ExxonMobil Corporation CEO Darren Woods
  • The letter to BP America Inc. CEO David Lawler
  • The letter to Chevron Corporation CEO Michael K. Wirth
  • The letter to Shell Oil Company President Gretchen Watkins
  • The letter to the American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers
  • The letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark

House Working To Write and Pass the $3.5 Trillion Build Back Better Act Reconciliation Package

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 07 Sep 2021 19:31:00 GMT

The House of Representatives has begun a whirlwind effort to pass the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” reconciliation bill known as the Build Back Better Act this month. Practically every committee in the House has some component of the bill, known formally as S. Con. Res. 14, the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2022, under its jurisdiction.

The House Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-N.Mex.), was the first to handle its section, with a full-day markup last week. The committee will meet again this Thursday to vote on a few Republican amendments before final consideration of its bill.

The largest elements of the bill, dealing with health care, child care, and retirement, are being handled by the House Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by corporate ally Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.). They have two days of markup planned for this Thursday and Friday.

The Science Committee, Education and Labor Committee, and Small Business Committee also are conducting their markups on Thursday.

The Agriculture Committee is holding its markup on Friday.

With "No Double-Dip" Deal, Biden Has Quietly Acquiesced To Enormous Climate Justice Cuts In Infrastructure Plans

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 31 Aug 2021 19:20:00 GMT

Pres. Biden announces bipartisan infrastructure deal with eight of the 21 white U.S. Senators who negotiated the package.
With the so-called “no double-dip” rule, President Biden and 21 senators have negotiated a deal on the Build Back Better agenda that threatens several of his major climate and racial justice initiatives. The senators, all of whom are white, protected industry priorities in their deal.

At risk include programs for restoring minority neighborhoods cleaved by racially unjust highway projects, cut 96 percent, and for replacing all the lead water pipes in the nation, cut 67 percent.

In May, Biden proposed $6 trillion in public investment ($5 trillion in new spending) over ten years, in the form of the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, a $1.9 trillion American Families Plan, and about $1.5 trillion more in other spending.

Biden’s proposed plan was significantly smaller than that advocated by Green New Dealers, who called for $10 trillion in spending over ten years to build a just and sustainable economy.

After months of Senate negotiations, Biden’s plan was cut down to about $4.5 trillion, broken into two legislative components – a $1 trillion ($550 billion in new spending) bipartisan “physical infrastructure” package passed by the Senate by a filibuster-proof majority, and a $3.5-trillion reconciliation package intended to pass with only Democratic votes.

The bipartisan package is a fully detailed bill, while the reconciliation package, at least publicly, remains a top-level skeleton that remains to be fleshed out.

The bipartisan package includes nearly the full amounts requested by Biden for traditional fossil-fuel-intensive infrastructure: $110 billion for roads and bridges, $25 billion for airports, and $17 billion for waterways and ports. In addition, there is $16 billion to bail out oil and gas companies to clean up their abandoned wells.

The “double-dip” deal is this: any initiative which received any monies in the bipartisan package cannot receive more in the reconciliation package. As Politico reported on June 30:
The president said something really important the other day and nobody noticed. At his press conference celebrating the bipartisan infrastructure deal, Joe Biden suggested there would be no coming back for seconds: When it comes to spending on basic physical infrastructure (for roads, bridges, public transportation, etc.), the bipartisan deal is it. There will be no using the parallel, Democrats-only reconciliation package to spend more on those things than Republicans agreed to.

Instead, Biden indicated, the reconciliation bill is exclusively for stuff that Democrats want but Republicans oppose — like spending for family care, climate change and health care.

This may seem like a minor point, but it has big implications. On the left, some progressives have argued that they would simply add to the reconciliation bill anything that wasn’t fully funded in the bipartisan bill. That’s not happening. Biden wanted $157 billion for electric vehicles. The bipartisan bill spends $15 billion. He wanted $100 billion for broadband, and he secured $65 billion. From the White House’s perspective, these issues are now resolved and the reconciliation bill can’t be used to take another crack at them.

We checked with the White House, and officials confirmed that this interpretation is correct.

On the right, some conservatives have argued that voting for the bipartisan deal is pointless because Democrats will simply take what they can get from Republicans on highway spending or airports and then get the rest in the reconciliation bill.

But what’s actually happening is that the bipartisan bill is serving as a brake on what Biden can spend on core infrastructure.

In July, the Senate’s bipartisan package whittled $2.6 billion of Biden’s planned new spending down to $550 billion. Left out completely were major components of Biden’s plan that likely will be taken up in the reconciliation package, including housing, schools, clean energy tax credits, and home and community-based care.

However, because of the “no double-dip” deal Biden and the Senate negotiators made, the following programs face massive cuts that can’t be restored unless the deal is broken:
  • Reconnecting minority communities cut off by highway projects, cut 96% from $24 billion to $1 billion
  • Replacing the nation’s lead pipes, cut 67% from $45 billion to $15 billion
  • Investing in electric school buses, cut 87% from $20 billion to $2.5 billion
  • Repairing and modernizing public transit, cut 54% from $85 billion to $39 billion
  • Building electric vehicle charging stations, cut 50% from $15 billion to $7.5 billion
  • Upgrading and modernizing America’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, cut 46% from $56 billion to $30 billion
  • Road safety, including “vision zero” programs to protect pedestrians, cut 45% from $20 billion to $11 billion
  • Broadband infrastructure, cut 35% from $100 billion to $65 billion
  • Investing in passenger and freight rail, cut 18% from $80 billion to $66 billion

This overall cut of nearly half of $441 billion in proposed spending disproportionately targets the urban and rural poor and minority “environmental justice” communities, despite the Biden administration’s stated plans of achieving justice through intentional spending. Biden’s plan was about one-third of what Green New Deal advocates have said is needed for these initiatives.

The Green New Deal Network, a coalition of over 100 organizations, is advocating for the restoration of these funds.

House Transportation Committee chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is intending to challenge the “no double-dip” deal for programs under his jurisdiction, including high-speed rail, connecting neighborhoods, and water systems.

In contrast, the all-white team of 21 U.S. Senators who crafted this deal, led by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), approved Biden’s requested spending levels for highways, airports, waterways, and major bailouts for industrial polluters responsible for chemical and fracking cleanups.

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