Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Enviros are heartened by much of what they see in the newly released summary of the House’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus package. But they’re also concerned about how the transportation funds will be spent.

The bill includes a section focused on “clean, efficient, American energy.” The summary states, “To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will strengthen efforts directed at doubling renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient.” Another section of the bill aims to “modernize roads, bridges, transit and waterways.” Here’s the broad breakdown of those portions:

  • $32 billion to transform the nation’s energy transmission, distribution, and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology
  • $16 billion to repair public housing and make key energy-efficiency retrofits
  • $6 billion to weatherize modest-income homes
  • $30 billion for highway construction
  • $31 billion to modernize federal and other public infrastructure with investments that lead to long-term energy cost savings
  • $19 billion for clean water, flood control, and environmental restoration investments;
  • $10 billion for transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption

There’s also $4 billion for training and employment services through grants for worker-training programs in “high growth and emerging industry sectors.” Priority for these funds would be placed on green jobs and jobs in healthcare. “Green jobs training will include preparing workers for activities supported by other economic recovery funds, such as retrofitting of buildings, green construction, and the production of renewable electric power,” says the summary.

The Sierra Club praised the bill, saying it “makes an important down payment on solutions that will transform America’s economy and lead to a clean energy future that will benefit generations to come.”

Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder pointed out both the good and the bad. “This proposal demonstrates a serious commitment to clean energy with a number of smart and much-needed investments that can create green jobs and be instrumental in our transition to a clean energy economy,” he said. “Unfortunately, the transportation spending doesn’t take the same forward-thinking approach. The stimulus as it currently stands doesn’t do enough to create green jobs through clean transportation investments, and it doesn’t prevent spending from going to unnecessary new roads that increase pollution and oil consumption.”

Environmental Defense Fund points out that bill leaves states a lot of discretion about how they would spend funds, potentially allowing them “to buy ‘bridges to nowhere’ or a bridge to the 21st century.” The group is calling on states to make their plans known. “With tens of billions in new transportation spending, it’s more important than ever for states to respect President-elect Obama’s promise of transparency by making their spending priorities public as soon as possible,” said Michael Replogle, EDF transportation director and an adviser to the Department of Transportation.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the energy funding in the bill:

  • $11 billion for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds for the Smart Grid Investment Program
  • $8 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects
  • $6.7 billion for renovations and repairs to federal buildings including at least $6 billion focused on increasing energy efficiency and conservation
  • $6.9 billion in local government energy efficiency block grants
  • $2.5 billion for energy-efficiency housing retrofits for HUD-sponsored, low-income housing to increase energy efficiency
  • $2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research
  • $2 billion in grants and loans for the development of advanced battery technologies
  • $1.5 billion in grants and loans for energy sustainability and efficiency in school districts, institutes of higher education, local governments, and municipal utilities
  • $6.2 billion for low-income home weatherization
  • $300 million in consumers rebates for buying energy-efficient, Energy Star products
  • $600 million to replace older vehicles owned by the federal government with alternative-fuel automobiles
  • $200 million for a new grant program for electric-vehicle technologies
  • $2.4 billion for carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology demonstration projects
  • $350 million for Department of Defense research into using renewable energy to power weapons systems and military bases
  • $400 million for state and local governments to purchase efficient alternative-fuel vehicles to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions
  • $500 million for energy-efficient manufacturing demonstration projects
  • $300 million for grants and loans to state and local governments for projects that reduce diesel emissions

And here’s a more detailed breakdown of the transit portion:

  • $30 billion for highway and bridge construction projects
  • $1 billion for Capital Investment Grants for new commuter rail or other light rail systems
  • $2 billion to modernize existing transit systems
  • $6 billion to purchase buses and equipment needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities
  • $1.1 billion to improve the speed and capacity of Amtrak and intercity passenger rail
  • $3 billion for airport improvement projects that will improve safety and reduce congestion

Under that section, there’s also cash for parks and public lands, including $3.1 billion for infrastructure projects on federal lands including improvements to visitor facilities, road and trail restoration, preservation of buildings of cultural and historic importance, rehabilitation of abandoned mines and oil fields, and environmental cleanup projects. Of that, $1.8 billion would go to the National Park Service, $325 million for the Bureau of Land Management, $300 million for the National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries, and $650 million for the Forest Service.

There’s also considerable funding for water infrastructure projects:

  • $6 billion for loans through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to help communities upgrade wastewater treatment systems
  • $2 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund
  • $1.5 billion for rural water and waste disposal
  • $4.5 to the Corps of Engineers for environmental restoration, flood protection, hydropower, and navigation infrastructure critical to the economy
  • $500 million to the Bureau of Reclamation to provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural areas and to ensure adequate water supply to western localities impacted by drought
  • $400 million for watershed infrastructure through the Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • $224 million for the International Boundary and Water Commission to repair flood control systems along the international segment of the Rio Grande damaged by hurricane Katrina and other serious storms

And there’s funding for environmental cleanup around the country, including:

  • $800 million for Superfund cleanups
  • $200 million for enforcement and cleanup of petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks
  • $500 million for nuclear-waste cleanup
  • $300 million for environmental cleanups at closed military installations
  • $400 million for habitat restoration programs through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • $100 million for brownfield remediation
  • $850 million for programs to reduce wildfires threats
  • $550 million to state and private park services for volunteer and wildfire reduction programs
  • $300 million for the Federal Forest Service to reduce wildfire threats
  • $500 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the maintenance of schools, dams, detention and law-enforcement facilities, and over 24,000 miles of roads

Another $600 million under the science and technology portion of the bill is set aside for satellite development and acquisitions, including climate sensors and climate modeling, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.