The Skywriter

Congress ready to pass a green recovery bill


Congress ready to pass a green recovery bill

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After a long week of discussions, leaders on Capitol Hill have struck a deal on the recovery package. The good news: the final version has a strong green component. Final votes are expected today, and the bill should be ready for President Obama's signature by Monday [UPDATE: the House just passed the recovery bill, 246-183].

The final draft version of the recovery bill that is smaller in scale than both the House and Senate versions, but has remained strong on clean energy investments.

Amidst tight votes in the Senate (61 supporters, including 3 swing Republicans), $50 billion in public loans for nuclear power was removed from the bill during conference between House and Senate versions. The conference strengthened the bill in other ways as well, producing an extensive lineup of unprecedented investments in clean energy and other green initiatives.

Total: $68 billion in direct green investments, plus another $20 billion in clean energy tax incentives -- enough to create over 1.5 million green-collar jobs (PDF).

Highlights include:

  • Over $16 billion for public transit, including $8 billion for inter-city high speed rail;

  • $9.5 billion for targeted low-income weatherization projects, and tens of billions for efficiency investments linked to other projects in the bill;

  • $11 billion for a smart grid;

  • $0 (as in nothing) for new nuclear power plants;

  • Full funding for the much-needed Green Jobs Act;

  • Expanded tax credits for wind, other renewables, and plug-in hybrids (Obama's goal is to have 1 million of these on the road by 2015);

  • "Decoupling": This measure ensures that utilities are encouraged to invest in energy efficiency in the same way that they are encouraged to invest in new power capacity. This will spur private efficiency investments, create new jobs, save consumers money, and lessen our reliance on dirty energy.

Analysis from friends at Greenpeace found that these pollution-cutting investments and policies will be equivalent to taking 13 million cars off the road if implemented properly.

Unfortunately, some funding went to coal research and new highway construction, but that pot of money was generally dwarfed by investment in efficiency, renewables, and public transportation. Most of the dirty energy handouts and loopholes were removed at the last minute.

For more details, see what our friends are posting at Center for American Progress and Grist. We'll post further updates as soon as we hear more.

We'd like to extend special thanks to all of you who called your representatives and senators asking for the recovery to include these vital programs to create jobs and help us transition to a clean energy economy. Finishing on a strong note would not have been possible without the groundswell of grassroots support we've seen from friends and allies across the country.

Remember, the recovery is just the beginning. To truly lay a foundation for a green economy we need comprehensive climate legislation that will put a price on carbon. We need everyone's help gearing up for this big year of climate action -- which is why I invite you to become a Climate Precinct Captain today!

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