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The Insider

President Joe Biden’s roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan presents a wide array of opportunities for programs to achieve reductions in greenhouse gases, conventional air pollutants and water pollution, drawing tentative praise from some states and environmentalists even as the fate of the sprawling package in Congress remains uncertain.

Biden’s plan includes a boost for environmental justice (EJ) by directing that investments in environmental improvements benefit disadvantaged communities, and the plan also highlights his focus on curbing pollution, two efforts that are reflected in related measures in Democratic-sponsored bills pending in Congress.

Further, Biden’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 contains major funding hikes for a similar list of environmental efforts, potentially reinforcing the stated benefits of the infrastructure package, or “American Jobs Plan."

As our exclusive Climate Extra service reports, the House Energy and Commerce environment and climate change subcommittee held an April 15 hearing on Democrats’ CLEAN Future Act, a broad climate bill aimed at achieving Biden’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

At the hearing, full House energy panel Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said the intent was to discuss proposals for inclusion in the infrastructure and jobs bill being drafted by House leaders in response to Biden’s proposal, with “climate justice” at the center of addressing long-standing environmental concerns.

House Panel Eyes Broad Climate ‘Justice’ Provisions For Infrastructure Bill
House Democrats are weighing a wide range of measures addressing climate impacts on minority and low-income neighborhoods in their upcoming infrastructure legislation, including measures to bolster waste cleanups, tighten coal ash disposal rules, reform permitting and strengthening enforcement of EPA rules, among other proposals.

Meanwhile, state officials are urging Congress to boost funding for various clean water infrastructure projects, with across-the-board increases in federal money. The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, the Association of Clean Water Administrators, the Environmental Council of the States, the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities, and Western States Water Council say they “strongly support increased funding for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure that protects public health and the environment.”

State Water Regulators Outline Policy Priorities For Infrastructure Funding
A coalition of five groups representing state environmental officials with responsibility for clean water and drinking water infrastructure is urging Congress to significantly increase funding for water infrastructure, detailing policy priorities to maximize federal investments including flexibility on how and when states spend the money.

Biden’s FY22 budget proposal contains massive hikes in spending for EPA and other agencies, including support for fighting climate change, reducing air and water pollution and advancing EJ objectives on a previously unseen scale.

The proposal “makes the largest investment in environmental justice in history. To support marginalized and overburdened communities across the Nation, the discretionary request invests more than $1.4 billion, including $936 million toward a new Accelerating Environmental & Economic Justice initiative at [EPA],” the White House says.

Also, Biden is seeking $717 million for rural water and wastewater grants and loans, an increase of $100 million over the FY21 enacted level that the request lists as part of EJ efforts.

The request also seeks $1.8 billion for programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while delivering EJ and creating jobs, including an additional $100 million in Clean Air Act grants for states and tribes to cut GHGs.

Biden’s FY22 Budget Proposal Seeks To Bolster DOJ, EPA Equity Efforts
President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal includes what the administration says is the largest-ever funding request for environmental justice (EJ) efforts at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and EPA, including $5 million extra for DOJ to tackle equity through enforcement and funding hikes for many EJ programs at EPA.

State air regulators and environmental groups see a lot of potential in the infrastructure package for reducing conventional air pollution.

However, some observers say the plan relies overwhelmingly on incentives, such as rebates for purchasing electric vehicles, and that to achieve the required climate and air quality goals, additional regulatory steps may be necessary.

States, Environmentalists Eye Emissions Cuts In Biden Infrastructure Plan
Environmentalists and state air regulators are offering early praise for opportunities to reduce conventional air pollution and greenhouse gases through President Joe Biden’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan, including measures to cut emissions from mobile sources, reduce pollution in equity areas, and improve air quality at ports.

And while equity advocates welcome the Biden administration’s focus on equity in infrastructure and environmental policy, some are expressing doubts about the administration’s “Justice40” initiative that aims to ensure 40 percent of the benefits from infrastructure and climate funding go to disadvantaged areas. The administration has established a new interagency task force and advisory council that will seek to translate the goal into action.

EJ Proponents Eye Federal Budget Benefits Above Biden’s 40 Percent Goal
Environmental justice (EJ) proponents are faulting as insufficient President Joe Biden’s “Justice40” initiative to ensure that 40 percent of the benefits from federal infrastructure and climate funding goes to minority and low-income areas, launching a bid for a greater share of such benefits for tackling pollution in the overburdened communities.