The Build Back Better Act will start to bring environmental justice and clean up the kinds of plants depicted above By Ramona du Houx The lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Americans, have already been affected by climate change and its extreme weather events will only get deadlier, and costlier if we do not act. The science is clear: we […]
The Build Back Better Act will start to bring environmental justice and clean up the kinds of plants depicted above
By Ramona du Houx
The lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Americans, have already been affected by climate change and its extreme weather events will only get deadlier, and costlier if we do not act. The science is clear: we must cut the carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels in half by 2030 or suffer more extreme weather and sea levels rising. This is likely our last moment to mitigate the worst consequences of the climate crisis, but time is running out.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific report said significant reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases could help global temperatures to stabilize. Action has to happen now, for that to become the reality the world needs.
Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) brought together elected officials from New York and West Virginia to speak about the importance of passing the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) Poverty in America is interlinked with health issues caused by the climate crisis. Both are essential investments for America’s future standing in the world, and for the survival of our democracy.
Polling released recently by Data for Progress and Invest in America shows that the majority of U.S. voters across the political spectrum support the BBBA .
“An Earth Justice for All study found 70 percent of Charleston residents live within 3 miles of a high-risk chemical facility. A stretch of the Kanawha River heading west out of the city is known as Chemical Valley because of its major chemical industry concentration. The Biden administration’s approach recognizes how the climate crisis is interconnected with rising inequality, crumbling infrastructure, and persistent racial injustice.” said Charleston Councilwoman Deanna McKinney (WV). “We have to mitigate the climate crisis with the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). Communities that have been systematically neglected need the transformative change the BBBA could bring. This is the hopeful promise of a more inclusive America, one where one’s zip code doesn’t predetermine your future.”
The disastrous 2014 Freedom Industries chemical spill outside Charleston, West Virginia left 300,000 people across 9 counties without safe tap water. In some areas the water has remained tainted with the 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol toxin.
The Build Back Better Act (BBBA) includes more than $550 billion for climate action and will put America on a path to dramatically cut the pollution driving climate change, while building a just and equitable economy. The investments would set the United States on a path to a 50-52 percent reduction in carbon pollution by 2030—the same goal scientists say is necessary to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
“The Build Back Better Act combines concrete actions to mitigate against climate change, rebuild our economy and advance environmental justice — while paving the way for good-paying, union jobs. That’s why Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) urges the Senate to pass this once-in-a-generation opportunity to avoid a worsening climate crisis and give workers lifetime opportunities in a clean energy economy,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, former Maine state Representative, Marine combat veteran, President of the Elected Officials to Protect America and Co-Founder.
Science gives us ways to combat the crisis. First, we need to embrace how it is interconnected to rising inequality and persistent injustice. We need a true whole-of-government approach that mobilizes every federal agency to tackle this crisis. That’s what the Biden administration has done. A major component of the Biden administration’s plan is to ensure that 40 percent of overall benefits of federal climate and clean-energy investments goes to disadvantaged communities.
According to the EPA the transportation sector is the largest contributor of carbon pollution in the U.S., and the prime contributor to air pollution that poses major risks to public health and premature death, especially in communities of color and low income. Most of these communities are already hardest hit by systemic racism and need environmental justice reforms. Most are also located in areas more susceptible to deadly heat waves, flooding and other extreme weather events.
“Critical investments in the President’s BBBA, working in tandem with the bipartisan Infrastructure law, will support and create American jobs in the clean energy sector, help slash climate pollution, prepare communities for rising seas, droughts, and storms, as well as protect the nation’s public lands, safeguarding lives, livelihoods, and the economy,” said Robin Wilt, Brighton Councilmember, EOPA New York Leadership Council. “The creation of the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) builds on FDR’s classic program that gave dignity back to hundreds of thousands. It will build healthy and safe communities that are more resilient to storms and floods, expand access to renewable energy, weatherize buildings and install electric vehicle charging stations. The CCC can start to right the injustices of the past by giving good paying jobs to those hardest hit by environmental racism.”
A Department of Energy (DOE) study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually. Modernizing America’s electric grid with a diverse portfolio of renewable energy sources is of national security importance. With more clean energy sources available to feed into the grid —our nation and economy will be more secure.
To make electric vehicles (EVs) more available for Americans the BBBA would extend and expand tax credits for businesses and consumers. EV production is projected to increase. Buyers of electric vehicles would receive up to $12,500 in tax credits — depending on the portion of vehicle parts made in America, and if it was built by union workers.
“As a former meteorologist, the recent deadly tornadoes that tore across six states were unlike anything I’d ever witnessed in December. From 2010 to 2020, West Virginia experienced 11 extreme weather events, which cost up to $2 billion in damages. But these statistics don’t reveal the emotional devastation people suffered as their lives were thrown into chaos when homes and businesses were destroyed,” said Delegate Jim Barach, (WV). “The Build Back Better Act puts billions into transforming our systems to use clean energy. A robust tax incentive program to spur growth in clean power and clean transportation will help put us on the road to a clean energy economy.”
New York is the fourth most populous American state and has its third-largest economy. Its Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) requires New York to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 — putting the state on a path toward carbon neutrality.
“New York is a demonstrated leader in advancing innovative policies that will create a more equitable clean energy economy. However, our communities are still vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Communities of color and low income communities have contributed the least to environmental pollution and the climate crisis, yet they suffer the most,” said Katelyn M. Kriesel, Manlius Town Councilor, EOPA New York Leadership Council. “We are making progress, but we need federal support to see substantive change. We need the Senate to pass the Build Back Better Act. This will allow us to cut pollution in half by 2030, establish millions of good paying clean energy jobs, and support climate adaptation efforts in our communities. Only then will we truly be on the road to an inclusive, clean energy economy.”
The United States experienced 22 climate caused disasters that exceeded a record $1 billion each in damages in 2020.Without immediate action much of New York’s coastline will be lost under a projected 8 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, along with the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands. According to the Regional Plan Association, sea level rise in the New York Metropolitan Region will threaten 285,000 homes valued at $164 billion by 2100.
“Our Community Protection Act (CLCPA) is moving New York forward but we aren’t an island. While lawmakers across the nation are making strides to protect their own constituents with clean energy solutions and resiliency plans, extreme weather has no borders. The death and destruction from record setting tornado activity in the Midwest last week underscores how climate change is bringing more severe weather to every corner of America. Critical action on the federal level to mitigate the climate crisis is imperative. That starts with the Senate passing President Biden’s Build Back Better Act (BBBA),” said William Reinhardt, Albany County Legislator, EOPA New York Leadership Council. “Employment opportunities in clean energy, renewable manufacturing, infrastructure revitalization, and a Civilian Climate Corps would be available with the BBBA. These family-sustaining, union jobs would provide a boost to local economies, benefiting everyone. To have a better future as we recover from climate-induced disasters, we must build back better.”
As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, which laid bare the inequities in the labor market that resulted in stagnated wages, we need family-sustaining jobs now more than ever. The BBBA will help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, supporting more than 556,000 manufacturing jobs and more than 312,000 construction jobs annually.
Worldwide renewables are the cheapest form of power in most places, which is 38 percent of the global total. Expected continued investments could drive that number to more than 55 percent by 2030 and 74 percent by 2050, yet that’s not fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate disasters. Governments that promote investments in the clean energy economy will invigorate this growth.
Dirty fossil fuel power plants account for a third of our carbon footprint. They must completely stop adding more carbon to the atmosphere by 2050—in order to keep the climate crisis from becoming a catastrophe where millions worldwide could perish.
The executive order President Biden signed on December 8, 2021 commits the government to ensure federal operations run entirely on carbon-free electricity by 2030. The executive order lays out goals that would put the federal government on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050 and would add at least 10 gigawatts worth of clean electricity to the grid. The Government’s carbon emissions would be cut by 65 percent by the end of the decade. However, it needs the Build Back Better Act to pass for it to become a reality. With the BBBA, the Infrastructure Law, and the Budget for Fiscal Year 2022, there will be enough funding for agencies to achieve the goals of the executive order.