MEMO: Build Back Better Act would still include historic emissions reductions & environmental justice investments

Contact: Emily Samsel, esamsel@lcv.org, 828-713-9647

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Matthew Davis, Senior Director of Government Affairs, LCV
DATE: October 26, 2021
RE: Historic emissions reductions, environmental justice investments in the Build Back Better Act

In recent days, there’s been a lot of understandable focus in the media on what’s getting cut from the Build Back Better Act. Now we’d like to draw your attention to what we fervently hope and expect to remain in the package that will ensure that the United States is firmly on track to meet the goal of cutting climate pollution in half by 2030, the goal that President Biden set and science and justice require. The Build Back Better Act would include by far the largest investments the United States has ever made to tackle the climate crisis — and between the reconciliation package and strong state and executive leadership, we can and will equitably meet our climate goals.

Between the robust clean energy tax package, unprecedented environmental justice investments, clean vehicle incentives, a methane fee, conservation and restoration investments that reduce emissions and store carbon, and so much more, the Build Back Better Act will result in transformational progress.

With the Build Back Better Act as law, in the years ahead we’ll save $500 a year on energy bills, send our kids off to school in clean electric school buses, drive affordable electric cars, breathe clean, healthy air, worry less about health problems caused by polluted air and water, and ultimately stave off even more devastating, costly extreme weather and other catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis. And from manufacturing electric vehicles and building EV charging stations to upgrading buildings and weatherizing homes, the Build Back Better Act will create millions of new, good-paying, union jobs in the clean energy economy and provide the resources to help workers get the skills they need.

As Congress reaches the final phases of negotiations on the Build Back Better Act, here are some of highlights that we hope and expect to be included in this package:

Historic, Equitable, and Pro-Union Tax Incentives for Clean Energy, Vehicles, and Manufacturing 

The tax incentives package alone would bring us within striking distance of President Biden’s commitment to eliminate power sector carbon emissions by 2035 and to cut in half our total carbon emissions by 2030. As Slate reporter Jordan Weismann put it, “… just think of [the tax credits] as a firehose of cash for developing renewables that will keep spraying until the U.S. starts hitting its decarbonization goals.”

This robust tax package of clean electricity, vehicle, manufacturing and new and enabling technologies (including storage and transmission) will:

  • Address the climate crisis: These clean energy tax credits can cut power sector carbon emissions by 72% over the next decade — putting the U.S. firmly on a path to reaching Biden’s 100% clean electricity by 2035 goal. And reducing power sector carbon emissions is the nearest-term and cheapest way to address climate change.
  • Accelerate clean electricity deployment: A ten-year investment in clean energy deployment through full value directly-paid flexible tax incentives has the power to transform the U.S. power sector. Three different studies (Rhodium Group, Energy Innovation, Resources for the Future) agreed that the tax incentives alone would nearly double current clean electricity generation over the next decade.
  • Create good jobs and build our workforce: From 2022-2030, these investments would sustain as many as 679,000 new jobs each of those years in the U.S. across the clean energy production, installation and manufacturing sectors. That includes new clean energy jobs in every region and state, most of which will be paying prevailing wage and building apprentice skills that strengthen our workforce as a condition of using Build Back Better incentives and support domestic manufacturing.
  • Deliver equitable economic benefits: The Build Back Better Act includes an additional 10% incentive on top of existing tax credits for distributed clean energy projects to be built in disadvantaged and low-income communities using local workers. And new direct pay provisions ensure tax credit incentives are invested directly in clean energy projects rather than banks.
  • Make our cars cleaner and electrify our transportation sector: The Build Back Better Act includes consumer rebates for electric vehicles that could electrify up to 60% of annual new car sales by 2030, newly incentivizes buying used electric and plug-in hybrid cars with reforms to better meet the needs of lower-income consumers, and includes strong tax credits for heavy duty vehicles and charging infrastructure.

Across the board, the Build Back Better plan delivers a historic climate investment package that helps decarbonize every major polluting sector of our economy.

Full list of tax credits outlined in the Chairman’s mark of the Clean Energy for America Act

Build Back Better Act Text that was approved by House Ways and Means Committee

Environmental Justice

Oil refineries, power plants, and other industrial facilities are disproportionately sited in communities of color and lead to higher rates of cancer, asthma and other life-threatening health problems. The Build Back Better Act’s environmental justice investments would deliver economic, public health and environmental benefits directly to the communities that need them the most while helping the Administration deliver on its Justice40 Initiative. This package stands to make major progress cleaning up toxic pollution in communities most impacted by legacy environmental and health hazards, improving air quality monitoring necessary to protect communities, supporting equitable community development and engaging communities in infrastructure projects in their neighborhoods. The Equitable and Just National Climate Platform (EJNCP) highlights priority investments here and a full list of critical environmental justice investments included in the House’s Build Back Better Act can be found here.

An important climate and environmental justice provision in the Build Back Better Act is the GHG Emissions Reductions Fund/Clean Energy Sustainability Accelerator: a green investment fund with a focus on deployment of clean energy with 40 percent of investments targeted to disadvantaged communities.

So Much More

In addition to investing in our clean energy future, it is critical that oil, gas and coal companies are held responsible for polluting our communities, air and water. One way the Build Back Better Act holds polluters accountable is with a methane pollution fee on the oil and gas industry for the excess methane pollution they flare, vent, and leak during extraction. There are also huge opportunities to reduce emissions through investments in conserving and restoring forests, farms, wetlands, restoring protections to the Arctic Refuge and more; Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture grants and loan programs; making our homes more efficient and powering them with electric appliances; industrial decarbonization; coastal resiliency efforts; and more.

And don’t just take it from LCV, take it from key lawmakers that Congress will meet the moment:

“For the children we must save this planet that we will pass onto future generations with great responsibility, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at our event with Climate Power and the Climate Action Campaign last week. She then told E&E News, “We’ll meet the president’s goals … we have plenty of options.”

“For the first time in a decade, we have the chance to take climate action and put Americans to work building electric cars, expanding and upgrading the electrical grid, making electricity cheaper for families and businesses across America,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14), chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. “We are not going to miss this chance to deliver.”

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Surely your district is divided on this issue?’ They are not,” said Rep. Andy Kim (NJ-03). “This district that voted for Trump twice understands the challenges of climate change. It is a district that got crushed by Superstorm Sandy. You might remember the iconic image of a roller coaster in the ocean: that’s my district. … We need the change now. People in my district, Democrats and Republicans, all agree upon a bold climate agenda.”

“We know that we have the tools to address this climate crisis. We know what to do,” said Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith. “The president has described to us how we can move forward and reduce our carbon emissions by 50 percent in the next 10 years. That is non negotiable, we must get that done.”

As our nation reels from this summer’s devastating heat, fires, droughts, storms, and floods, reckons with long-standing environmental and racial injustice, and as the president prepares to head to international climate negotiations, it’s never been more urgent or more important for Congress to address the Code Red for Humanity that is the Climate Crisis. It’s time for Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act to do just that.

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