Congress was busy this weekend by passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HR 3684) and agreeing to act on the $1.85 trillion reconciliation measure. Late Friday night, November 5, the House of Representatives passed the $1.2 trillion act by a vote of 228-206 with six democrats voting against the bill and 13 republicans voting in favor of bill. The bill includes approximately $550 million in new spending. This infrastructure agreement now goes to President Biden for his signature.
This agreement would reauthorize surface transportation and water programs for 5 years, adding $550 billion in new spending. It includes $110 billion for roads, bridges, and major projects; $39 billion for transit infrastructure and $66 billion for passenger rail; $65 billion for broadband internet access; $65 billion for the electric grid; $55 billion to upgrade water infrastructure; and $25 billion for airports.
The White House posted a fact sheet on what is included in the new infrastructure legislation.
The House also passed for later consideration the $1.85 trillion reconciliation measure, now titled the Build Back Better Act (HR 5376). The rule passed the House by a vote of 221-213, with no democratic defections and no republican support. This bill included several billion in new funding for the public health workforce. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) promised to take up the Build Back Better legislation by November 15 after the Congressional Budget Office releases its estimates on the costs of the legislation.
Regarding environmental health provisions of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the bill will:
- Deliver clean water to all American families and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines. Up to 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and childcare centers lack safe drinking water. This legislation will invest $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water for households, businesses, schools, and childcare centers across the country. From rural towns to struggling cities, the legislation will invest in water infrastructure and eliminate lead service pipes.
- Repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users. This legislation will reauthorize surface transportation programs for 5 years and invest $110 billion in additional funding to repair our roads and bridges and support major transformational projects.
- Improve transportation options for millions of Americans and reduce greenhouse emissions through the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history. This legislation includes $39 billion of new investment to modernize transit in addition to continuing the existing transit programs for 5 years as part of surface transportation reauthorization. In total, the new investments and reauthorization in this bill provide $89.9 billion in guaranteed funding for public transit over the next 5 years. The legislation will expand public transit options across every state in the country; replace thousands of deficient transit vehicles, including buses, with clean, zero emission vehicles; and improve accessibility for older adults and people with disabilities.
- Make our infrastructure resilient against the impacts of climate change, cyberattacks, and extreme weather events. This legislation makes communities safer and infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyberattacks with an investment of over $50 billion to protect against droughts, heat, floods, and wildfires, in addition to a major investment in weatherization. The legislation is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.
- Deliver the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history by cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaiming abandoned mines, and capping orphaned oil and gas wells. This bill will invest $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land, and cap orphaned oil and gas wells. These projects will remediate environmental harms, address legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities, create good paying union jobs, and advance long overdue environmental justice.
Doug Farquhar is the director of Government Affairs at the National Environmental Health Association in Denver, Colorado.