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U.S. PIRG - The Federation of U.S. Public Interest Research Groups

09/15/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/15/2021 11:20

Statement: Congressional committee moves forward on Build Back Better legislation, which tackles potent pollutants

Legislation targeting lead pipes, methane and other threats to clean air and water passes key hurdle

WASHINGTON -- After a summer of record-breaking air pollution, heat waves and an ongoing public health crisis, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced legislation this week to address many of the pollutants most damaging to human health and the environment. The provisions, which must still be considered by the full U.S. House of Representatives, would reduce the following types of pollution:

  1. Lead: Lead is a potent neurotoxin, especially for kids. The bill includes $30 billion to replace lead pipes, which can leach lead into drinking water, and $700 million to reduce lead in school drinking water.
  2. Methane: Methane is a greenhouse gas 80 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide in the short term. The bill would establish a fee on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, whose proceeds would go toward reducing pollution.
  3. Pollution from vehicles and at ports: Each year, pollution from cars, trucks and other vehicles cuts short an estimated 58,000 lives, and increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. Transportation is also now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The legislation includes billions in funding to reduce air pollution from heavy duty vehicles, at ports and from diesel engines. It also invests in electric vehicle charging infrastructure at workplaces, apartments and other public places.

The legislation, led by Chair Frank Pallone of New Jersey, also includes programs to increase clean electricity, clean up toxic waste sites, help consumers weatherize their homes, and switch to cleaner, more efficient appliances.

Experts from Environment America and U.S. PIRG issued the following statements.

Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG environment campaigns director, said:

'We're grateful to the House Energy and Commerce Committee for taking strong climate action in this bill. With hurricanes battering our coasts and wildfires raging in the West, Chairman Pallone and the members of the committee understand the urgency with which we need to reduce global warming pollution. Methane is an especially harmful greenhouse gas and ratcheting down that gas' emissions is a critical piece to solving the global warming puzzle. Holding oil and gas companies accountable for methane emissions would be a significant victory for all Americans. So would policies like the Clean Energy Payment Plan, which will result in more renewable energy generation by penalizing utilities that don't meet certain thresholds. This will not only help address climate change, but will also provide for cleaner air and healthier communities today. It's about time we started making big climate polluters pay.'

John Rumpler, Environment America clean water director, said:

'The committee's bill answers the urgent call to get the lead out of our drinking water. Even low levels of lead threaten our kids' health, and yet for decades, we've allowed pipes, plumbing and fixtures to be made with this potent neurotoxin. As a result, we now have widespread drinking water contamination. Lead service lines are the single largest source of this problem, and this bill, together with the bipartisan infrastructure package, would provide the $45 billion needed to replace them all. In addition, the act provides crucial funding to install filters and replace lead-bearing parts at schools, where our research shows extensive water contamination. Safe drinking water is vital to the health of our children; ensuring it should be a no-brainer for Congress.'

Morgan Folger, Environment America Destination: Zero Carbon campaign director, said:

'From delivering goods to transporting people across town, most of the cars, trucks and other vehicles on the road are still pumping out pollution from fossil fuels, which harms our lungs and warms the planet. This bill will make it easier for us to replace those old vehicles with cleaner electric options. Whether you drive a delivery van, a forklift or a sedan, the Build Back Better Act will help you go electric. It will also increase the infrastructure we require to give us a future where every American rides in an electric vehicle. We need a lot more charging stations in every corner of the country, and we're thankful this bill will give us more options to plug in and end the reign of vehicles that pollute.'

Johanna Neumann, Environment America Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy senior director, said:

'America's renewable energy resources are practically unlimited, from the powerful winds blowing off our shores to the sun shining down on every state. The House Energy and Commerce Committee took a huge step toward tapping those vast clean and renewable resources by advancing the Clean Electricity Performance Program. By offering utility companies carrots when they meet clean electricity targets -- and sticks when they don't -- this program will put the U.S. on a path toward cleaner power, which is good news for our health and our environment. Coupled with the clean energy tax incentives included in the Build Back Better Act, the Clean Electricity Performance Program will bring a cleaner, healthier future powered by 100% renewable energy within reach.'