Economic recovery package gives big boost to New Energy Economy, more work ahead on green transportation

Environment Colorado

Denver– Environmentalists praised the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” the economic recovery bill working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives this week for making bold investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, but did ask lawmakers to green the bill’s transportation provisions.

“The road to economic recovery is paved green,” said Pam Kiely, legislative program director of Environment Colorado.  “Congress is poised to deliver an economic recovery package that will increase our energy security, clean-up our air and water, and create good jobs for Colorado.”

 An analysis of the legislation and national report entitled Clean Energy, Bright Future outlining a green recovery plan was released today by Environment Colorado as the bill makes its way through Congress and just as members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation head to the Colorado General Assembly. The delegation will brief state legislative leaders on the stimulus package and engage in a broader economic discussion organized by House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann (D-Louisville) and Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont).

The Colorado Environmental Coalition and Environment Colorado urged Colorado’s Congressional delegation to improve and pass the package and capture an enormous opportunity to prevent pollution, save oil, and create more jobs by investing more in mass transit and greener transportation.

“Congress is right on the money to invest in transportation, but it needs to be a greener investment,” said Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “By focusing more stimulus dollars on transit and multimodal projects, ongress will generate more jobs, while reducing global warming pollution, lessening our dependency on foreign oil, and creating a 21st Century transportation system. We need a green recovery that protects the health of our economy and environment.”

The draft bill includes at least $37.8 billion for energy efficiency, $27.8 billion for renewable energy and $11.6 billion for public transit and clean transportation.  The following specific proposals were lauded:

  • extending the clean energy production tax credits and making them “recession proof;”
  • investing $6 billion in efficiency and conservation renovations in federal buildings;
  • investing $6.2 billion to help low income families weatherize their homes; and
  • providing $6.9 billion in community block grants to fund state- and city-run efficiency programs.

 While the groups support the bill’s funding for more efficient buses and other pressing transit improvements, environmentalists are concerned that three-quarters of the bill’s transportation funding is for highway infrastructure.  With no provision ensuring that funding will be used to repair existing infrastructure rather than to build new roads, this funding would increase global warming pollution and oil consumption.  Only $10 billion is devoted to much-needed mass transit and rail improvements that reduce pollution, reduce our nation’s reliance on oil, and create more jobs than investing in new highways.

Environment Colorado and the Colorado Environmental Coalition are calling for $59 billion to expand transit capacity to meet rapidly growing demand and reduce the environmental cost of passenger car travel. According to the group’s analysis, such investment would create 1.5 million new jobs and provide environmental benefits equivalent to taking one million cars off the road each year.

The groups also applauded Gov. Bill Ritter for seeking an aggressive investment in the New Energy Economy. In December, the Governor submitted his recommendations for a green recovery, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, biomass, and transmission lines to bring clean energy online.

Environment Colorado’s “Clean Energy, Bright Future” report outlines how investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and public transportation when fully implemented could cut America’s annual global warming pollution by 10 percent, provide the power equivalent of 170 coal power plants, and expand public transit capacity by 10 percent per year-while creating three million jobs.  

Environment Colorado and the Colorado Environmental Coalition applauded funding for efficiency and renewable energy in the bill. However, the group warns that, as the bill stands, Big Oil, the road-builders and other polluting interests are too dominant in the transportation component of the economic recovery package.

“Congress is off to a good start with a clean and green energy package, but the transit investments fall short. Let’s make the down payment now on solving global warming and put people back to work while doing it,” said Kiely.

The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” has passed out of the House Appropriations Committee and now goes to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The U.S. Senate passed the energy tax credits out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday.