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Chuck Schumer injects climate change fight into infrastructure deal

December 7, 2018

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Friday demanded that a deal for an infrastructure program include measures to combat climate change, throwing down the gauntlet on road and bridge projects that was one of the only areas of potential agreement between Capitol Hill Democrats and President Trump.

By tying infrastructure to climate change, which Mr. Trump has called a hoax, Mr. Schumer erased any doubts that the new Congress grind to a halt on the president’s agenda.

“Any infrastructure package considered in 2019 must include policies and funding to transition to a clean energy economy and mitigate the risks that the United States is already facing due to climate change,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, wrote in a letter to the president. “Climate change is real, caused by humans, and its impacts are already being felt in communities across the country.”

He included a long list of demands such as permanent tax credits for clean energy and electric cars the type of Obama-era program Mr. Trump has been rolling back.

A massive program to rebuild America’s crumbling highways, bridges and airports tops Mr. Trump’s agenda and Democrats’ wish list. It was one the one area of common ground where optimists though there could be progress when Democrats take control of the House next year and Mr. Trump for the first time confronts a divided government.

At first, the biggest hangup to a deal was how to pay for it. Mr. Trump wanted to use public-private partnerships or P3s to reduce the budget impact. Democrats wanted at least $1 trillion in new federal spending.

The battle now shifts to how much of the infrastructure is climate change policy.

“A single infrastructure bill will not solve our climate problem in its entirety, but it is an important first step,” Mr. Schumer wrote.

He cited the recent congressionally mandated report by the administration that blamed man-made climate change for recent hurricanes and wildfires and warned of increasing devastation in coming decades if not addressed.

Mr. Trump balked at the multi-agency report, which critics called alarmist and noted it was authored by longtime climate change advocates.

The list of demands include:

Provide permanent tax incentives for domestic production of clean electricity and storage, energy efficient homes and commercial buildings, electric vehicles, and modernizing the electric grid;

Invest in both storage and transmission capacity to move renewable power around the country;

Invest in smart grid and micro-grid technology, and prepare the grid for more locally generated renewable energy;

Invest in and save taxpayer dollars through energy efficiency upgrades for public buildings, schools, affordable housing, and other infrastructure;

Substantially increase investments in research, development, and deployment of next-generation clean energy, energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and energy storage technologies;

Invest in resilient transportation, water, waste, and sewer infrastructure;

Provide funding to help communities reduce the vulnerability of their critical infrastructure to extreme weather and natural disasters;

Establish new resilient communities revolving loan fund for communities to invest in resilient infrastructure, including natural infrastructure solutions such as restored wetlands, floodplains, and other natural features that can mitigate property damage and loss of life;

Invest in the natural environment, specifically in conservation, wildlife habitat, and deferred maintenance on our public lands, to power the robust outdoor economy and secure our shared natural heritage for future generations;

Significantly reduce the release of methane pollution as a by-product of domestic energy production.

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