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$2.3 trillion infrastructure package tackles internet access, EVs, grid modernization

The White House released its economic development strategy, a $2.3 trillion package that focuses on post-pandemic economic recovery, job development and infrastructure upgrades. Dubbed the American Jobs Plan, the proposal also includes key utility provisions, including a path to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035. 

CUB breaks down some of the utility-related highlights:

Expanding access to affordable Internet

  • The American Jobs Act would expand broadband infrastructure to underserved areas to reach 100 percent high-speed coverage. Financial support would also be available to help modernize broadband networks owned by local governments, nonprofits and cooperatives.
  • Why CUB likes this: Millions of Americans can’t use broadband internet, even if the appropriate infrastructure exists where they live. CUB has fought for stronger internet laws at the state level because we know costly internet bills and equipment can be hard to afford on a fixed budget. The pandemic further emphasized this digital divide, turning homes into offices and classrooms. We’d like to see more detail on how the Administration would close the gap, but we like that it aims to reduce the cost of broadband across the board.

Water infrastructure upgrades

  • Upgrading and modernizing America’s water infrastructure is essential to community health, especially as lead pipes and lines still service six to ten million homes in the US. The plan would fund $45 billion in water infrastructure grants through the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the plan, this investment will reduce lead exposure in homes and more than 400,000 schools and childcare facilities across the country.
  • It will also scale up existing, successful programs, including $56 billion in grants and low-cost flexible loans to states, Tribes, territories and disadvantaged communities across the country. Small water systems and household well and wastewater systems will also see funding.
  • Why CUB likes this: We just did a statewide campaign introducing a new interactive tool that tracks how expensive privatization can be for water customers across Illinois. Cash-strapped municipalities may sell their systems to a private water company because they’re looking for ways to make expensive upgrades to their aging public water systems. Proposals like this give these communities more options to make upgrades rather than just selling their systems to a private company that’s likely to charge its customers more for water. 

Electric vehicles

  • President Biden is proposing a $174 billion investment in the electric vehicle (EV) market to spur domestic production and create jobs. Consumers will also get rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made EVs.
  • An increase in EV production must be accompanied by an increase in charging stations. The plan promises a national network of 500,000 new EV chargers by 2030.
  • Through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, 50,000 diesel transit vehicles will be electrified, as will 20 percent of school buses. The federal fleet, including the United States Postal Service, will also make steps to electrification.
  • Why CUB likes this: In our “ABCs of EVs” series, CUB argues how EVs can reduce costs and pollution for everyone, and we support provisions in Illinois’ proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) that would make that happen. Supportive national policy can’t replace CEJA–we need a state law passed that is tailored to Illinois’ needs–but it is helpful to reaching our state goals. And now that vehicle pollution is the No. 1 cause of climate change, a policy like this is necessary.

Grid modernization

  • The plan would invest $100 billion to modernize the nation’s power grid. It would establish the Grid Deployment Authority at the Department of Energy which would support creative financing tools to spur additional high priority, high-voltage power lines. The plan will also incentivize the construction of modernized power lines.
  • President Biden will also establish the Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard (EECES), with the purpose of cutting electricity bills and leveraging existing carbon-free resources like nuclear and hydropower. This step would move the nation toward its goal of 100 percent carbon-pollution free power by 2035.
  • Why CUB likes this: Like most initial proposals, we want to see more details. But if the Texas disaster taught us anything, it is that the nation’s electric grid needs work to protect consumers from volatile weather and expensive outages. This is long overdue. The Clean Energy Jobs Act works for a carbon-free power grid by 2030, so we support any similar national effort to secure, clean, affordable energy for consumers.

The White House estimates the $2.3 trillion plan will be paid for within the next 15 years, if it is passed in tandem with the president’s “Made in America” tax plan. The tax plan would raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent.