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Rep. Pingree: Infrastructure bill win-win for our economy, environment

Now Congress must pass the Build Back Better Act to keep pace with other nations on social supports.

Just before Thanksgiving, I was honored to join President Biden at the White House for the signing of the most expansive investment in American infrastructure since the construction of the interstate highway system.

“From funding to repair our aging roads, bridges and ports to high-speed broadband expansion and legacy pollution cleanup,” the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act “is a once-in-a-generation investment in our future,” Rep. Chellie Pingree writes. 

Democrats fulfilled our promise to pass this bold measure, and its benefits are wide-reaching.

From funding to repair our aging roads, bridges and ports to high-speed broadband expansion and legacy pollution cleanup, this law is a once-in-a-generation investment in our future.

Nearly one year into President Biden’s tenure, the unemployment rate is thelowest it has been in 50 years – but our economic recovery will only accelerate with this new law in place. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is projected to create 2 million good-paying union jobs per year over the next decade.

Most importantly, this bipartisan law is an undeniable win-win for our economy and our environment.

This law makes climate-focused investments to support Maine’s Climate ActionPlan and will help our state achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. Here’s how:

Transportation is the biggest contributor to Maine’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Since 54 percent of our emissions come from passenger cars and trucks, the bill provides $19 million for Maine to expand public electric vehicle charging. Simultaneously, the law funds measures to improve public transit options across the state.

We tailored the landmark infrastructure law to focus on rail transit, too. The law addresses Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, it modernizes the Northeast Corridor and it creates partnership grants for intercity rail service.

On top of this, $2.5 billion in the law will go toward zero-emission school buses. As a Maine islander for the last 40 years, I am excited that this bill also includes $2.5 billion for low-carbon ferries. We’re focused on strengthening America’s deeply diverse transportation systems.

Combating the impact of climate change was one of the highest priorities in our bill-drafting, and the final product is comprehensive.

Last year, it’s estimated that extreme weather and climate-related disaster events cost the U.S. nearly $100 billion. By funding key climate investments, this law will provide resources for states to make their infrastructure more resilient against extreme weather events like floods, drought, heat and wildfires. This proactive approach not only saves taxpayer money in the long run, but also is common sense.

More than $65 billion will go toward updating our power infrastructure, marking the largest investment in clean-energy transmission and grid in American history. By funding new programs to support the development and deployment of cutting-edge clean-energy technologies, our transition to a zero-emission economy will accelerate.

These are just some of the ways the infrastructure law helps us mitigate the climate crisis, but there are other big benefits for our environment as well.

From our military bases to our drinking water, rain jackets to nonstick frying pans, per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) forever chemicals are all around us. This new law dedicates $10 billion to help communities address hazards like these. I also successfully fought to secure $390 million for Maine to modernize drinking and wastewater utilities while making them more resilient.

Since the 1960s, America’s domestic infrastructure investments have plummeted by 40 percent. We now rank 13th internationally in overall infrastructure quality – an absolutely unacceptable status. President Biden and Congress came together to build a stronger, more competitive America with this law.

But make no mistake: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is only half of the equation to prepare America for the next century. We must pass the Build Back Better Act to keep pace with other nations on the world stage. America is, shamefully, the only developed nation that does not provide paid leave for new parents or caregivers, and where people die because they cannot afford life-saving insulin. Build Back Better, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in November, would put an end to that. By supporting the needs of Americans from birth into old age, it would be the most significant boost to the safety net since the New Deal.

Together, these two bills address the serious challenges facing our nation that have been ignored for too long. We must seize this opportunity for a brighter tomorrow and implement the change voters elected us to deliver.

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