Congressional spending bill advances climate, clean energy, and public health
(Washington, DC, Dec. 21, 2020) — Tonight, Congress will consider a bipartisan year-end omnibus spending package that will make major investments in numerous Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) climate, energy, and conservation priority areas and will provide $900 billion in critical economic stimulus relief to Americans reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure also includes major energy innovation legislation that will advance the clean energy economy and sets the stage for President-elect Biden’s ambitious climate change agenda.
Additionally, the legislation extends tax credits for solar and wind deployment, energy efficient equipment, and creates a new offshore wind credit; re-authorizes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA); and phases down the use and production of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration systems.
“We commend Congress for working to advance bipartisan legislation to protect our environment, help build a cleaner and more sustainable economy, and provide much needed relief to Americans hurt by the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President for Political Affairs at Environmental Defense Fund. “While this legislation represents a strong starting point, EDF looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and the 117th Congress because more is needed to tackle the pressing climate crisis including curbing pollution from transportation, and to address environmental and racial justice.”
Here are a few of the bill’s highlights:
- Pipeline safety reauthorization — The first time Congress has directed operators of natural gas gathering, transmission, and distribution pipelines to find and fix methane leaks using advanced leak detection technologies, making pipelines safer for people and the climate.
- A bipartisan deal to phase down the use and production of HFC refrigerants – known as a climate “super pollutant” – in line with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
- Robust funding for EPA “core” programs to protect our clean air and water.
- Reauthorization of the EPA Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program.
- Clean energy provisions including: $1.7 billion reauthorization of the Weatherization Assistance Program to support low-income families by retrofitting homes with cost-saving clean energy technologies; the development of hybrid microgrid systems for isolated communities, particularly for those communities exposed to extreme weather conditions and high energy costs; large increases in R&D authorizations for clean energy technologies, including record funding authorization levels for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, solar, and wind energy R&D; and a new Department of Energy Industrial Emissions Reduction Technology Development program to research and demonstrate low-carbon solutions for this challenging sector.
- Extensions of the solar investment tax credit (ITC) for two years, onshore wind production tax credit (PTC) for one year, the carbon capture and sequestration “45Q” tax credit for two years, and creation of a new offshore wind ITC for five years. It also extends tax credits for energy efficiency investments in commercial and residential buildings.
- A water infrastructure package authorizing many EDF priorities, including: advancing natural infrastructure to reduce flood risk and increase community resilience in areas most at risk; addressing a number of regional priorities on sea level rise on the New York and New Jersey coasts; and advancing large-scale ecosystem restoration along Louisiana’s coast as well as studies on management of the Mississippi River.
- A western water package to expand and improve Bureau of Reclamation programs that make grants for water conservation and efficiency, drought response and ecological resiliency.
- Additional resources to help buoy the U.S. fishing industry during the continuing COVID crisis and its impact on major domestic seafood markets, such as restaurants.
- Investments in broadband to support rural prosperity and community well-being.
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