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Bipartisan bill leaves out key climate, clean energy steps

The deal omits mention of a Clean Electricity Standard, a key element of Biden's climate plan that would require the electric grid to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.

August 3, 2021  by Associated Press

The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled by the Senate includes more than $150 billion to boost clean energy and promote “climate resilience” by making schools, ports and other structures better able to withstand extreme weather events such as storms and wildfires.

But the bill, headed for a Senate vote this week, falls far short of President Joe Biden’s pledge to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one and stop climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035.

Notably, the deal omits mention of a Clean Electricity Standard, a key element of Biden’s climate plan that would require the electric grid to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.

Nor does it include a Civilian Climate Corps, a Biden favorite and a nod to the Great Depression-era New Deal that would put millions of Americans to work on conservation projects, renewable energy and helping communities recover from climate disasters.

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The White House says the bipartisan deal is just the first step, with a proposed $3.5 trillion, Democratic-only package following close behind. The larger bill, still being developed in Congress, will meet Biden’s promise to move the country toward carbon-free electricity, make America a global leader in electric vehicles and create millions of jobs in solar, wind and other clean-energy industries, supporters say.

While the bipartisan plan is “a good start,” lawmakers will “deal with the climate crisis in the magnitude, scope and scale that’s required” in the Democratic-only bill, said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

For now, the focus is on the bipartisan deal, which includes $550 billion in new spending for public works projects, $73 billion of that to update the electric grid and more than $50 billion to bolster infrastructure against cyberattacks and climate change. There’s also $7.5 billion for electric charging stations.

Citing the deadly Texas power outages earlier this year, the White House touted spending to upgrade the nation’s power grid and boost renewable energy. An Energy Department study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion a year. The bill also invests in demonstration projects for advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture and storage and so-called clean hydrogen that can be burned with few emissions.

The Senate voted, 66-28, Friday to advance the bill, but it’s unclear if enough Republicans will eventually join Democrats to support final passage. Senate rules require 60 votes in the evenly split 50-50 chamber to advance the bill but a simple majority to pass it.

The measure also faces turbulence in the closely divided House, where progressives are pushing for increased spending on climate change and other issues and centrist lawmakers are wary of adding to the federal debt.