While the nation wrestled with protests that turned violent over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, politics as usual was underway in the nation’s capitol and it focused on—climate change.
Democrats on the House Transportation Committee released their $494 billion, five-year surface transportation bill on Wednesday, prompting scorn from their Republican colleagues who say they were shut out of the process. That might ultimately mean the bill’s climate provisions will be watered down once it hits conference.
Ranking members Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) said in a statement they “stood at the ready to work all year” since releasing their infrastructure principles in January, but “were not given the opportunity to address any of our priorities in this legislation,” which they said contained “numerous new green mandates and extreme progressive goals.”
Under Democrats’ bill, the Transportation Department would be required to establish a new greenhouse gas emissions performance measure. It also includes $8.35 billion for fiscal years 2022-25 for a new apportioned program to support carbon pollution reduction, and creates another program ($6.25 billion for the same period) to fund resilience and emergency evacuation needs. Another $350 million per year would go toward discretionary grants for electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
Republicans trounced the bill’s “extreme” climate focus. The Senate’s bill, S. 2302 (116), led by Environment and Public Works Chair John Barrasso and which the EPW panel approved unanimously, contains a climate title that includes money for EV charging infrastructure and several climate resiliency provisions, but the House bill goes much further. “House Democrats’ love affair with red tape and the Green New Deal is getting in the way of getting America back to work,” Barrasso said.
On a call with reporters Wednesday, House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) defended his work, saying there was “very little room to work with the Republican staff” on the bill’s climate elements, which he said were “crucial.” He also hinted that since Democrats are aligned on the importance of combating climate change, GOP support probably won’t be needed for the bill to pass the House, which he said plans to vote on the bill July 1.