How the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is Helping Us Achieve a Zero-Emissions Future
At its two-year anniversary, Earthjustice highlights the benefits—and opportunities—for the BIL to help us meet our climate goals and advance environmental justice.
To protect communities living on the frontlines of worsening climate change and generations of environmental injustices, it’s critical that we mobilize the full power of federal, state, and local governments to craft and implement solutions. Two years ago, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), a sweeping piece of legislation containing more than $1 trillion in investments to upgrade and expand our infrastructure. Since the law’s passage, more than $400 billion has flowed to over 40,000 projects in all 50 states and U.S. territories, and to numerous Tribal governments. This includes hundreds of billions of dollars to deploy zero-emissions technologies to communities across the country to help fight climate change and improve air quality.
The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and a major source of deadly air pollution in our communities. It’s impossible to overlook the relationship between our current infrastructure, climate change, and public health. Decades of underfunding have left us with crumbling infrastructure that fails to address the modern challenges we face. By deploying zero-emissions technologies across various sectors — from public transportation and ports to heavy-duty vehicles and cars — we can help meet the goal of cutting climate pollution by at least 50% by 2030 while quickly improving the air quality of the environmental justice communities most at risk.
Here’s how some of the funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are being invested in communities and helping make a zero-emissions future a reality:
Clean Buses: The Biden administration is implementing the largest investment in clean heavy-duty vehicles in our nation’s history. Under the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the administration has funded over 2,900 low- and zero- emissions buses and 2,400 clean school buses. This is promising news for our climate and air quality. While trucks and buses only account for 4% of vehicles on the road, they are responsible for more than 25% of the total transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. They typically run on dirty diesel, whose emissions imperil not only the communities vehicles are passing through, but passengers.
Children are especially susceptible to air pollution from dirty vehicles, making the Clean School Bus Program incredibly important. Through the 2022 clean school bus rebate program, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA awarded up almost $1 billion to fund school bus replacements at nearly 400 schools, and applications are now open for 2023. Earthjustice attorneys and advocates will continue working with the administration and community organizations to ensure that the Clean School Bus Program lives up to its full potential and that funding goes to the communities that need it the most.
Cleaning up Ports: Ports are critical to ensuring that our economy runs smoothly, but all that economic activity — from the ships, trains, and port equipment — has a major greenhouse gas footprint and severely impacts the air quality of nearby communities. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes almost $17 billion for upgrading infrastructure at ports — including deploying clean energy technologies. The Biden administration has funded approximately 445 port and waterway projects, and some of that funding will upgrade and replace dirty diesel-fueled equipment in favor of electric equipment. For port communities breathing in unhealthy amounts of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter, these investments are a welcome first step towards long-term solutions to improve their air quality.
Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure: Deploying charging infrastructure is essential to advancing a clean transportation future. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes the largest investment in Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in history. It established two programs to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure in both rural and urban areas across the country. The Biden administration created the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program (CFI Program) to deploy publicly accessible electric vehicle charging in the places people live and work. The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (NEVI) provides funding directly to States to deploy electric vehicle charging infrastructure and has since distributed $2.4 billion to States to improve reliability and connectivity. Better and more ubiquitous charging infrastructure gives consumers and businesses the confidence they need to go electric — a major win for our climate and air quality.
Since the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Earthjustice has worked alongside community organizations to shape its implementation. We will continue to work with the Biden administration to ensure these investments go to the communities that need them to most — particularly those already facing high levels of air pollution. Pollution caused by medium- and heavy-duty vehicles continues to disproportionately cause harm to low-income communities and communities of color, which are most likely to live near major highways, ports, and transportation centers. As the administration continues implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, it has the opportunity to electrify our transportation system to reach our climate goals and drastically improve the health outcomes of millions of people. The Biden administration should not let this opportunity to create a more equitable future pass.
Athena Motavvef is a legislative representative on the Policy and Legislation team at Earthjustice. Based out of Washington, D.C., she is a federal advocate working to electrify our transportation system to reduce air pollution and protect our climate.
Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.