Statement: Infrastructure bill will mean cleaner air, water and energy for U.S.

Next up: Congress must pass climate legislation
For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted to build a bridge to a brighter future by passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on November 5th. This major bipartisan package will improve transportation, clean water, power infrastructure and broadband access across the United States over the coming decades. The bill was supported by 10 members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, including Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and all nine Democratic members. Up next: a budget reconciliation bill that would help the U.S. stall climate change and clean up our environment. The Build Back Better Act includes clean energy tax incentives and other investments to tackle pollution. 

The vote follows years of failed “Infrastructure Weeks” and months of debate over President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included many of the president’s proposals, passed the U.S. Senate earlier this summer by a 69-30 vote, including “ayes” from 19 Republican senators. 

PennEnvironment’s Executive Director David Masur pointed to many of the bill's provisions as providing great benefit to the health and environment of Pennsylvania, including:

  • $55 billion for water infrastructure, including wastewater infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the grade of a D- to Pennsylvania's wastewater infrastructure, partially due to the Commonwealth experiencing 1,800 sewage overflows statewide. Pennsylvania's portion can go a long way towards addressing these overflows. This includes $15 billion specifically to remove lead pipes and $200 million to address lead in school drinking water. This historic investment would help address the crisis of lead in drinking water across the Commonwealth, from the 20,000 lead service lines bringing water to Philadelphia homes to the 80% of drinking outlets in Pittsburgh that have tested positive for lead.

  • Record investments in transit, walking and biking infrastructure. In Pennsylvania, SEPTA and Pittsburgh’s Port Authority would be the primary beneficiaries, with resources also flowing to Pennsylvania’s rural and small city transit agencies.

  • $7.5 billion to begin building a nationwide electric vehicle charging network.  This could help Pennsylvania meet the projected demand of 42,000 electric vehicles on the state’s road by 2030.

  • Funding for thousands of clean, electric school buses and low and zero emission transit buses.

  • $73 billion to strengthen the electrical grid and improve energy efficiency.

  • Begins the process of reinstating the Superfund tax “polluter pays” principle while also including additional funding to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned gas wells. Pennsylvania’s portion of this funding could help address the Commonwealth’s 127 superfund sites and the state’s estimated 560,000 abandoned oil and gas wells.

  • $65 billion for broadband

  • $350 million to build wildlife corridors, which ensure animals can get under, around or over roads to migrate, mate and maintain biodiversity

In response to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passing, PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur issued the following statement:

“The infrastructure we build impacts our health and the environment for decades to come. All Americans want clean air to breathe, clean, lead-free water to drink, and more options to get around. But for decades, our infrastructure investments haven’t reflected those values. 

“This legislation makes needed progress in these areas. It begins to rectify the harms of past infrastructure investments by removing lead pipes and targeting investments to protect our kids from lead in school drinking water; cleaning up Superfund sites; and reconnecting wildlife habitats. Just as important, it invests in the clean transportation technologies we need to have a livable future, such as clean electric school buses and electric vehicle charging. 

“After a summer of record-breaking drought, heat waves, fires out West and floods here in the Commonwealth, the urgency of solving climate change has never been more apparent. The proposed Build Back Better Act, a necessary counterpart to the infrastructure bill, would grow solar and wind power, help people buy electric vehicles, and reduce air pollution. We urge Congress to move forward with the Build Back Better Act at the speed the climate crisis demands.”

PennPIRG’s State Advocate Emma Horst-Martz issued the following statement:

“To solve social problems, we need leaders -- who don't always agree -- to set aside their differences and reach compromises on solutions. 

“This bill reflects that bipartisan spirit and takes major steps toward a cleaner and healthier America. It includes the largest-ever federal investment in public transportation. It invests in electric school buses. It reinstates one of the 'polluter pays' taxes for hazardous waste Superfund site cleanups. 

“On its own, this investment is historic and will leave our country healthier, stronger and more resilient. Together with the Build Back Better Act, which includes robust provisions to address climate change, this is a great package of positive environmental programs, one that President Biden and Congress can be proud of.”  

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Read more from PennEnvironment’s experts:

Lead pipes: A pipe dream no longer: Congress moves to get the lead out

Electric vehicles: Charged up for an electric vehicle future

Electric school buses: The road to cleaner air

Clean water infrastructure: All of America’s waters should be safe for swimming. Fixing our infrastructure is the first step.

Wildlife crossings: Why didn’t the mountain lion cross the road? Because it would get smashed by the car going 65 mph

Pollinators: Infrastructure for Insects: Congress Should Invest in Bees and Butterflies

Superfund: Make Polluters Pay: How public education and advocacy revived the polluter pays principle

Read more from PennPIRG’s experts:

Lead pipes: From pipe dreams to pipe replacement: Congress moves to get the lead out

Clean water infrastructure: All of America’s waters should be safe for swimming. Fixing our infrastructure is the first step.

Electric school buses: The road to cleaner air

Electric vehicle charging: Charged up for an electric vehicle future

Superfund: Make Polluters Pay: How public education and advocacy revived the polluter pays principle

Broadband is the “new electricity”

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PennEnvironment is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit www.PennEnvironment.org.