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House Democrats Unveil a Broad Infrastructure Package Targeting Climate Change

The proposal allocates tens of billions of dollars in funding to combat a variety of issues, including drinking water, broadband access, and health care.
Workers install solar panels on the roof of a home on May 9th, 2018, in San Francisco, California.

Workers install solar panels on the roof of a home on May 9th, 2018, in San Francisco, California.

Democrats from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday released a new plan that allocates tens of billions of dollars in funding to tackle a range of challenges in the areas of infrastructure, health care, and climate. The Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow's America Act, or LIFT America Act, was introduced by all 31 Democratic members of the committee.

"We cannot wait any longer to act on climate or to modernize our nation's aging infrastructure. The LIFT America Act makes significant investments in rebuilding our country and takes an important step in combating the climate crisis by moving us toward a clean energy future and reducing our carbon emissions," committee chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-New Jersey) said in a statement. According to Pallone, the plan's investments are meant to bolster the economy and create jobs, as well as provide much-needed improvements in health care, drinking water, and broadband access.

The bill comes after months of debate regarding the state of America's infrastructure, as Democrats and Republicans try to find common ground. It extends policies that were briefly introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-New York) polarizing Green New Deal, which sought to provide a comprehensive approach to America's infrastructure, health care, and climate crisis, while prioritizing equal access.

The new plan seeks to provide a comprehensive approach to updating the country's infrastructure to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. It includes over $33 billion for investments in clean energy. This includes upgrading the U.S. energy grid to enable it to take on more renewable energy, retrofitting buildings to become more energy efficient, creating an electrical vehicle charging network, and facilitating investment in clean energy at local and city levels. The plan also calls for making the electric grid more resilient in the face of increasing extreme weather events.

In a move to strengthen equity and environmental justice, the plan also allocates money for the installation of solar panels in low-income and underserved communities. It also allocates $21 billion to create grants for communities that have contaminated drinking water, in addition to the expansion of other safe water programs.

The comprehensive plan addresses equitable access in other key infrastructural areas as well. It would increase access to high-speed broadband Internet and 9-1-1 services. It would also increase health-care funding for Indian country. Other measures include strengthening the cybersecurity of America's health system and creating more labs designed to be at the forefront of fighting infectious diseases.

It's not yet clear whether the LIFT America Act will gain bipartisan support. But it comes at a time when, as Kate Wheeling reported for Pacific Standard earlier this month, Republicans' stance on climate change has been shifting, with some GOP lawmakers putting out climate change policies of their own. Some of these plans—such as Senator Lamar Alexander's (R-Tennessee) "new Manhattan Project," which calls for increasing investments for green infrastructure such as green buildings and electric vehicles—share common threads with the new infrastructure proposal.