If the Build Back Better Act passes Congress, all Americans will see improvements in their daily lives.
For many months, our staff and leaders across the entire progressive community have been working tirelessly to push for bold legislation that is urgently needed to address our climate emergency, advance environmental justice, and invest in the health and prosperity of millions of people living in the U.S. The passage of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) in the House was a watershed moment for our country, but the bill’s path through the Senate is now uncertain. If we miss this moment, we will all be losing out in ways that will matter very much in our daily lives.
As we close out 2021, let’s be clear about the solutions that we can and must demand from Congress and the White House in the new year. Here are just a few of the programs that Congress can deliver for you and for all of us:
- If you live near a busy road, highway, warehouse district, or port, or if you or someone you love suffers from asthma, the BBBA is a breath of fresh air. It invests directly in communities that have long borne the brunt of pollution and provides a jolt of funds for the transition to zero-emissions buses and trucks, air monitoring equipment, and actual pollution clean-up.
- If you rely on a car to get around, the BBBA gives tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles (EVs). These credits are fully refundable and available at your point of sale — up to $12,500 for new cars and up to $4,000 for used ones. If access to charging has been a barrier for you, the act will build out a nationwide network of EV chargers, and address longstanding inequities by ensuring disadvantaged communities and rural areas get EV charging stations so everyone can fully participate in the clean energy economy.
- If you’re looking to replace harmful gas appliances with safer electric appliances, BBBA allocates $18 billion in consumer rebates to upgrade your appliances with specific funds allotted for low- and moderate-income families and tribal communities.
- If your drinking water passes through lead pipes, the BBBA includes $9 billion in grants to the EPA to replace lead service lines as well as funding the installation of lead filtration systems in schools and childcare facilities. Additionally, the bill includes rural water grants through the USDA’s Rural Development program that can finally remedy long-standing water contamination issues. These grants could be life-saving for the many people who can’t afford upgrades to keep their families safe from toxins in their drinking water.
- If you live in a community with broken sewage infrastructure, the BBBA allocates $150 million for the repair and replacement of sewage systems in rural and low-income counties. This could end the deplorable situation where Americans are contending with sewage flooding in their homes and testing positive for hookworm, a parasite long-thought eradicated.
- If you are among the growing number of Americans living in regions at risk for extreme climate-related weather events, the BBBA creates a new climate conservation corps of workers, who would be deployed nationwide to clean up pollution, protect public lands, strengthen community resilience, and aid in recovery from climate disasters.
- If extreme weather brought on by climate change is adding to your anxiety, know that the BBBA includes billions in restoration, adaptation and resilience investments to prepare for and mitigate the disasters to come, including wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes.
There is so much more to Build Back Better, and I encourage you to dig in — start here — to better understand the true magnitude of what is possible and what is at stake. As a whole, the climate package passed by the House will make it possible to achieve 50% – 52% reductions in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, putting us on track to meet our climate deadlines while making our lives so much better.
We need a serious collective investment of our taxpayer dollars to address the climate crisis that threatens all of us. For the first time in our history, we could see climate action at a truly meaningful speed and scale. Don’t let this moment pass without understanding everything you have to gain from building back better — and everything we all stand to lose if we fail to act on climate now. Please make your voice heard! Come January, the Senate needs to act, and all of our representatives in Congress need to hear from us that failure is not an option.
Abigail Dillen serves Earthjustice as our President, leading the organization's staff, board and supporters to advance our mission of using the courts to protect our environment and people’s health.