The White House's infrastructure plan gave states guidance to invest in eco-friendly projects.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) have released a letter to state governors telling them to ignore the Biden administration's suggested guidelines for using funding allocated under the newly enacted infrastructure law on projects that are good for the environment.
The Republican senators complained that a December memo from Stephanie Pollack, deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, about the guidelines amounted to a "wish list of policies." Pollack's memo encouraged state and local governments to invest in projects like bike and pedestrian paths, public transportation, and charging stations for electric vehicles.
In November, President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. The following month, the White House released a set of guidelines directing states and municipalities to use their federal infrastructure funds on projects that increase sustainability and equity. The website Grist reported that the White House expects projects that advance environmental justice to use roughly one-fifth of the law's funds, or $240 billion.
On Dec. 16, Pollack sent a memo to state and local governments suggesting that they focus on infrastructure projects that are "more sustainable and resilient to a changing climate."
From Pollack's memo:
The intent of the guidance also is to ensure that the funding and eligibilities provided by the BIL [Bipartisan Infrastructure Law] will be interpreted and implemented, to the extent allowable under statute, to encourage States and other funding recipients to invest in projects that upgrade the condition of streets, highways and bridges and make them safe for all users, while at the same time modernizing them so that the transportation network is accessible for all users, provides people with better choices across all modes, accommodates new and emerging technologies, is more sustainable and resilient to a changing climate, and is more equitable.
On Wednesday, McConnell and Capito responded to Pollack's guidance with their own letter urging state governors to ignore the Biden administration's suggestions, claiming they "differ from the provisions negotiated and agreed to in the law."
McConnell and Capito were two of 19 Republican senators who voted for the law last August, which passed with majority Democratic support in the House and Senate.
The senators argued that under the new law, the Federal Highway Administration doesn't have the authority to "dictate how states should use their federal formula funding" to boost environmentally friendly projects. They also insisted the administration doesn't have authority to prioritize "public transit or bike paths over new roads and bridges."
Provisions like public transit and biking paths have been shown to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a major contributor to global climate change.
The White House has noted the infrastructure law is key to Biden's commitment to environmentally friendly reforms.
The funds allocated under the law would help "strengthen our nation's resilience to extreme weather and climate change while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding access to clean drinking water, building up a clean power grid, and more," according to the White House.
The League of Conservation Voters, which grades senators by their voting record in favor of environmental issues, awarded McConnell an 8% rating and Capito a 17% rating. The average U.S. senator's rating is 46%.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.