Photo: Shenandoah National Park. Credit: Staff.
Congress passed one of the largest infrastructure investments in U.S. history on November 5, 2021. But what does this law do for the environment? A lot, it turns out! The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will improve our transportation and power infrastructure and ensure cleaner air and water across the United States over the coming decades. Here are some of the highlights.
With the construction of roads, plus fences, cities, strip malls and more, we have carved up wildlife habitats into smaller and smaller pieces, further threatening biodiversity that is steadily in decline around the globe. In particular, roads present a dangerous challenge for obvious reasons — cars and trucks barrel toward wildlife and can crush and kill them. The federal infrastructure bill and the $350 million it allocates to wildlife crossings will help save cougars, elk and other animals.
There’s funding to help monarch butterflies, bees and other pollinators too! Learn more.
Lead is highly toxic, especially to kids, and the problem is pervasive. The bipartisan infrastructure bill provides enough funding to replace about one third of lead service lines nationwide—$15 billion—and $200 million to address lead in our schools’ drinking water. And, there’s additional money to clean up toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” that threaten our drinking water.
The bill also makes a major investment to clean up lakes, rivers and beaches. More than half of the beaches we reviewed were unsafe for swimming on at least one day in 2020. Fixing leaky pipes and preventing runoff can help solve the problem. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will allocate $11.7 billion over five years—more than any previous five-year period—to make our waterways safer for swimming.
And for lovers of the Great Lakes, there is $1 billion for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which aims to make its fish safe to eat, its waters safe for swimming and free from toxic algal blooms and invasive species.
Climate Change and Electric Vehicles
Transportation is the biggest contributor to American greenhouse gas emissions. The infrastructure bill makes historic investments in electric vehicle charging, electric buses, and transit, walking and biking.
Electric vehicles: One of the primary barriers to electric vehicle ownership is range anxiety — the fear of running out of charge while on the road. The bipartisan infrastructure bill makes the first-ever major investment in electric vehicle charging stations in United States history. We’re on track to install 250,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country, half of Pres. Biden’s goal of 500,000, thanks to the bipartisan bill.
Electric buses: The diesel fume belching yellow school bus is ubiquitous across America’s roads, but it can give kids asthma and worsen climate change. The bipartisan bill provides $2.5 billion in funding to be specifically used for purchasing zero-emission electric school buses as well as an additional $2.5 billion for the purchase of other low-emission school buses.
Transit, walking and biking: The bill makes the largest-ever federal investments in clean, healthy ways to get around: $39 billion for public transportation, $66 billion for rail services, and $11 billion for pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure.
The cleanest energy is the energy we don’t use in the first place, but much of our energy is wasted thanks to inefficient appliances and buildings. We could avoid much of this energy waste if we only made our buildings more energy efficient. The bipartisan bill provides $225 million to implement energy efficient building codes nationwide.
Toxic Waste and Pollution
One in six Americans lives within three miles of a toxic waste site on the national “Superfund” list. After 26 years of citizens footing the bill for polluters’ messes, Congress has reinstated a “polluter pays” tax on the production of hazardous chemicals, which will hold the polluting industry responsible for the cost of cleaning up the nation’s most dangerous toxic waste sites.
Additionally, the infrastructure bill includes funding to clean up abandoned mines and the estimated 450,000 brownfields in the US. This funding could reduce the risk of cancer and other serious illnesses for millions of Americans and give them safer communities to live in.
Executive Director, Washington Legislative Office, Environment America; Vice President and D.C. Director, The Public Interest Network
Lisa directs strategy and staff for Environment America's federal campaigns. She also oversees The Public Interest Network's Washington, D.C., office and operations. She has won millions of dollars in investments in walking, biking and transit, and has helped develop strategic campaigns to protect America's oceans, forests and public lands from drilling, logging and road-building. Lisa is an Oregonian transplant in Washington, D.C., where she loves hiking, running, biking, and cooking for friends and family.