In massive House highway bill, climate is a common refrain

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter A. DeFazio vowed to make fighting climate change a fundamental goal of the next highway bill his committee would take up, and certainly, the issue gets its share of mentions in the bill released Friday.

Climate change, resiliency and reducing emissions are woven throughout the bill’s 1,249 pages, with the word “climate” appearing 96 times; “resiliency,” “resilient” or “resilience” 100 times; and emissions 107 times. 

The five-year, $547 billion bill, scheduled to be marked up on Wednesday, would make climate change and emissions reduction a goal of nearly every applicable federal transportation program. The bill threads in requirements throughout that climate change be considered when planning for new infrastructure as well as when applying for grants for federal transportation dollars. 

Summary sheets released with the bill said that, in all, it would dedicate $8.3 billion to a new program aimed at reducing carbon pollution and $6.2 billion for mitigation and resiliency improvements aimed at building infrastructure resistant to extreme weather events. It would pour $7 billion into the Transportation Alternative Program, which authorizes funding for nonautomobile-related transportation, such as transit or bicycling — a 60 percent increase, said DeFazio, D-Ore. And it includes $4 billion for electric vehicle charging stations. 

“This bill sets us up to actually reduce carbon emissions moving forward from the transportation sector, which is the biggest emitter right now, the biggest problem,” said Deron Lovaas, senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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