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Transportation Secretary Buttigieg focuses on climate solutions in infrastructure plan

By
Don Johnson
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the American Jobs Plan at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., on Tuesday. Pool photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the American Jobs Plan at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., on Tuesday. Pool photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

April 20 (UPI) -- The Biden administration's $2 trillion infrastructure plan will move the United States away from overreliance on fossil fuels and "spark an electric vehicle revolution" to help combat the climate crisis, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday.

In his opening statement before the Senate Appropriates Committee, Buttigieg focused on how the infrastructure proposal would be part of the solution to climate change.

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The U.S. transportation sector is the economy's single biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, "which means it can and must be a big part of the solution to climate change," he said.

Buittigieg and other members of President Joe Biden's Cabinet testified Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the administration's infrastructure and jobs plan, dubbed the "American Jobs Plan."

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Republicans have raised concerns that Biden's package is too costly and has too much of what they consider to be non-infrastructure spending. The GOP has warned that any plan that strays from core infrastructure priorities, such as roads and bridges, to a proposal that tackles climate change and social justice won't get Republican support.

"I have heard it said that the American Jobs Plan should be about roads and bridges but should not address climate change," Buttigieg said. "I would compare that to drawing up plans for a new restaurant with no consideration for health, safety, or cleanliness. The truth is that every infrastructure decision is already, inevitably a climate decision as well."

Biden has said he is prepared to compromise on elements of the package as well as how revenue is raised to pay for it.

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The administration has proposed raising the corporate tax rate from the 21% established by the Republicans' 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act to 28% to help pay for the package -- a rate still lower than what it was between World War II and 2017.

The tax hike would fund the infrastructure plan within 15 years and would be combined with plans to discourage firms from listing tax havens as their address and offshoring profits.

Buttigieg said the proposal will provide rebates to make electric vehicles affordable for more Americans. The plan also will build a network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers across the country in both urban and rural areas.

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He said the plan would move the United States toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The choices on roads, bridges, and other infrastructure "must recognize and reduce the very real threat that climate change poses to American lives and livelihoods," Buttigieg said.

"The time has come to break the old, false framework of 'climate versus jobs,'" he said.

Buttigieg said the plan will improve more than 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges. The plan also will "address critical backlogs in rail and expand world-class passenger rail services, including high-speed rail," he said.

Buttigieg said: "We are not going to all this trouble to remain 13th in infrastructure globally."

The plan will double federal funding for public transit, "making it a more reliable and accessible option to more people," while "reducing congestion on the road and pollution in the air," he said.

"The need for new investment is impossible to ignore. We see it in the sections of California's Highway 1 that fell into the ocean; in the Gulf Coast flooding that halted rail service after Hurricane Harvey; and in the loss of subway service for millions of New Yorkers after Hurricane Sandy. We see it in the storms on our coasts, the floods in the Midwest, the wildfires in California and the deadly snowstorm in Texas. We must adapt," Buttigieg said.

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