by Jessica Arriens and Natalia Rudiak
How are ReImagine Appalachia’s priorities reflected in the federal infrastructure packages
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) among several other nicknames) is over 2700 pages and would authorize $1 trillion in spending. It passed the Senate earlier this year, and a House vote is next. Meanwhile, another infrastructure-related bill, called the Build Back Better Act, is being developed in both the House and Senate. The question we have at ReImagine Appalachia is – what’s in it for Appalachia?
In 2020, the ReImagine Appalachia coalition came together to change the conversation around the dire need for climate-forward infrastructure in our multi-state region. Our 100 coalition partners worked tirelessly to hammer out an infrastructure blueprint we’re now calling the Appalachia Climate Infrastructure Plan. From clean manufacturing to updating our electric grid, our partners and 130 local elected officials have come together to advocate for the billions of dollars needed to prepare our region for economic growth and bring workers into well-paying jobs in the 21st Century economy.
Our guide to the current infrastructure package:
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the bipartisan infrastructure package) – This passed the Senate in August on a bipartisan vote. It is a $1.2 trillion bill that would make historic investments for climate, communities, and wildlife conservation. Here are some parts of the bill that would directly benefit Appalachian communities:
- $21 billion to clean up and reclaim abandoned coal mines, plug orphaned oil and gas wells that leak methane and harm wildlife, and clean up toxic Superfund sites
- $8 billion for enlisting nature in helping to absorb floods and lessen the potential and impact of out-of-control wildfire
- Creation of a new PROTECT grant program to help states improve the resilience of transportation infrastructure, including through natural solutions
- Nearly $50 billion to deliver clean water through wastewater and drinking water infrastructure and removal of lead lines
- Upgrades to the electrical grid and transmission system to prepare for new wind and solar energy, as well as smart metering and electric vehicles
- Creation of a new energy efficiency revolving loan fund for homes and businesses
- $65 billion to expand access to broadband, including in rural areas
The Build Back Better Act -This bill could deliver even further transformative investments and, coupled with the bipartisan bill mentioned above, chart a path to a clean-energy, sustainable future. (You may have heard of the Build Back Better Act as the “reconciliation bill,” which just refers to the particular Congressional process – called reconciliation – the bill is moving through.) Some key Reimagine Appalachia priorities that are included in reconciliation (and not covered via the bipartisan bill):
- A 21st-century Civilian Conservation Corps, which can put Appalachians back to work, restore degraded lands and wildlife habitat, strengthen community resilience, and help address the deep racial inequities exacerbated by the pandemic and economic crisis.
- Long-term tax incentives for clean energy, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency upgrades and installation
- Long-term tax incentives for clean manufacturing, to benefit the manufacturing of renewable energy components and equipment and other green technologies; this is a key part of developing domestic supply chains and employing American workers
- Requirements or incentives for pro-worker practices in the clean energy industry
- Investment in the Appalachian Regional Commission
- Investment in the Economic Development Administration, targeted toward energy transition communities
- Additional investments in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, and lead service line removal.
- The Clean Energy Performance Program, which aims to have our nation running on 80% clean energy by 2030 through direct payments to utilities that insulate ratepayers
We need your support to get both of these bills over the finish line with these important provisions included!