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For Immediate Release:  February 5th, 2009
Contact: David Willett, 202-675-6698

 

Sierra Club Activists Voice Support for Senate Economic Recovery Bill


Washington, DC:
The Sierra Club today continued to urge the Senate to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act because it makes an important down payment on solutions that will transform America's economy, lead to a clean energy future and invest in training the next generation of workers.

With a lobby day yesterday [Wednesday] involving hundreds of activists in Washington for a Green Jobs conference and through call alerts, e-mails, and grassroots organizing,  tens of thousands of Sierra Club activists have told their Senators they want this bill passed now because it invests in newer, cleaner, more efficient technology that creates desperately needed jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.

This bill already includes billions of dollars in green spending for:

  • direct spending on and incentives for clean energy,
  • the retrofitting of public buildings and public housing,
  • low and moderate-income home weatherization,
  • clean water and environmental restoration projects,
  • energy efficiency, smart grid, and mass transit projects.

(fact sheet below)

"These initiatives are a win-win for a strong economy and a healthier environment," said Melinda Pierce, Sierra Club's National Campaigns Deputy Director.  "They will create good jobs for people here in America and reduce our dependence on dirtier energy sources like oil and coal by promoting the shift to wind and solar power and high energy performance, low carbon cars and buildings."

"At every stage of the economic recovery debate in the House, Representatives strengthened the bill and set a high bar," said Pierce.  "The Senate now needs to make sure that President Obama's vision isn't derailed."  

While the Sierra Club fully supports passage of the bill, there are some provisions that waste money on costly, business-as-usual approaches like new coal-fired power plants or "highways to nowhere" and we will continue to work to address these issues as the legislation moves forward.   In particular, we are concerned about $50 billion in loan guarantees that could go to risky investments like nuclear power plants, liquid coal and other coal facilities that will not provide short-term economic stimulus, are harmful to the environment, and place taxpayers at significant and unnecessary financial risk. "

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Fact Sheet on Senate: American Recovery & Reinvestment Act
Promoting Green Jobs, Clean Energy, and Smart Transportation Choices

The Senate’s version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (S. 366) reflects President Obama's vision of an economic recovery plan that recognizes the vital role of clean energy. The bill makes an important down payment on solutions that will transform America's economy and lead to a clean energy future and begins to invest in training the next generation of workers.  Nevertheless, the legislation includes troubling provisions that undermine President Obama’s vision and which were not included in the House passed legislation, H.R. 1.  It is important that these provisions are corrected before the legislation is signed into law. 

EXPANDING CLEAN ENERGY AND CREATING GREEN JOBS: Renewable energy and energy efficiency can create new jobs, reduce energy bills, and generate clean, homegrown electricity.  The legislation includes a range of both direct spending and tax incentives to boost clean energy production. 

 Extends Renewable Energy Tax Incentives.  The legislation extends the Section 45 Production Tax Credit (PTC) for an additional three years beyond current law.  However, unlike the House bill, the Senate version does not provide the ability to trade the tax credits for a reduced value grant from the Department of Energy.  Since many companies are not currently earning taxable income due to the economic downturn, this will severely hamper the effectiveness of the Senate provisions. In addition, the legislation provides up to $1.6 billion in new  Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs), providing a financing source for public entities which wish to develop renewable energy.  (Senate Finance, Title II, Subtitle B))

 Extends Energy Efficiency Tax Credits. The legislation gives the Secretary of Energy additional authority to issue energy conservation bonds and extends tax credits for residential and non-business energy efficiency investments. (Senate Finance, Title II, Subtitle B, Sec. 1121 & 1122)) In order for these provisions to be as effective as possible, it is important that both renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits can be transferred into direct grants to assist struggling manufacturers.  

 $14.4 billion for Energy Efficiency Programs, including local government block grants, housing retrofits, low-income weatherization, and research.  (Title IV)

 $10 billion for Renewable Energy loan guarantees.  Direct spending to provide loans through the Department of Energy to renewable energy generation and transmission projects. (Title IV, Sec. 404)

 $4.5 billion for Grid Reliability & Efficiency.  The legislation provides funds to pursue smart grid, reliability, and energy storage programs under Title XIII of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. (Title IV) 

SUPPORTING MASS TRANSIT & CLEAN VEHICLES:  Public transit and clean vehicles can save consumers money at the gas pump, ease the economy’s reliance on oil, curb global warming emissions, and create thousands of new jobs across the country.  

 $11.5 billion for public transit.  These provisions fund a variety of programs designed to construct new transit systems, upgrade and repair existing systems, and improve services.  It is estimated that this level of investment in transit will create over 300,000 jobs across the country.  Nevertheless, transit programs could provide additional benefits and jobs with higher funding levels.  Specifically, funding transit programs at the same levels as highway construction would create approximately 1.2 million jobs, while delivering superior environmental performance.  (Title XII)

 $5.5 billion for surface transportation.  In addition to the dedicated public transit funding, the legislation creates a separate fund, which provides grants to States and local governments to improve transportation infrastructure.  Both transit and road programs can qualify for this funding.  (Title XII) 

 $2 billion for Advanced Vehicle batteries.  The legislation provides funding and loan guarantees for the development and manufacture of advanced technology batteries.  These programs will encourage the creation of high-capacity batteries which can extend the range and power of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles.  (Title IV)


CLEAN WATER & ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP:  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also invests in critical environmental clean-up efforts.  These projects protect public health while creating jobs repairing important infrastructure and cleaning up polluted industrial sites.  Specifically, it is estimated that for each $1 billion of federal funding for water infrastructure improvements, between 30,000 and 47,500 jobs are created.  Some of these provisions include:

 $4 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.  This program provides loans to communities to improve wastewater treatment facilities.  (Title VIII State and Tribal Assistance Grants)

 $2 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which provides loans to repair and construct clean drinking water facilities.  (Title VIII State and Tribal Assistance Grants)

 $800 million for the Superfund program which funds cleanup of hazardous and toxic materials from polluted industrial sites.  (Title VIII Hazardous Substance Superfund)

 $200 million for the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) program.  This program funds the enforcement and cleanup of petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks. (Title VIII Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund Program)

AREAS OF CONCERN:  The House has set a high bar and as this bill moves forward, it is vitally important that even more of these kinds of improvements are made. Focus must remain on investing in newer, cleaner, more efficient technology and not wasting money on costly, business-as-usual approaches like new coal plants or 'highways to nowhere.

 Ensure that Clean Energy Tax Credits Are Effective.  Unlike the House bill, the Senate does not provide clean energy developers the opportunity to trade the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for Department of Energy grants at a reduced value.  Providing this flexibility is critically important in the current financial climate.  All across the country, renewable energy projects have been stalled due to the instability in the credit markets.  Since these companies are not generating profits, tax credits alone do not provide the necessary economic stimulus to get these projects back on track.  The Senate should include provisions identical to the House passed language. 

 Eliminate Subsidies for Nuclear/Coal/Liquid Coal.  The Senate legislation includes $50 billion in loan guarantees to support energy technologies authorized under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Most of these funds could go to nuclear power plants ,liquid coal and other coal facilities.  In addition to being harmful to the environment, these types of projects cannot provide short-term economic stimulus.  This provision should be eliminated.  

 Increase funding for transit programs. While the bill is a good first step, it falls short of the nation’s needed investment in transit. At a minimum, transit should be held on par with highway funding, which currently receives $27 billion in the legislation. 

 Highway projects should fix-it-first. America’s highway infrastructure is in desperate need of repair.  It is important that the funds included in the legislation go first to repair infrastructure as opposed to being spent on new and unnecessary roads.   Currently, the legislation provides $27 billion for highway construction and repair.  However, the legislation does not require States to prioritize repair projects before building new roads.  Given the current backlog of $69.9 billion in needed highway and bridge repairs across the country, the legislation should ensure that funds are used to fix it first and not build highways to nowhere.  Spending on transit and road repair create more jobs than new roads.

 Ensure that water projects are economically & environmentally sound. The bill waives the requirement for cost-sharing in the construction and operation of the inland waterway system.  Many water resource projects have not moved forward because of serious concerns about whether they are economically justified and meet environmental standards.  Waiving cost-sharing requirements would diminish scrutiny of proposed projects' economic and environmental benefits.  The legislation should reinstitute the cost-sharing requirement on the inland waterway system to ensure that States and local governments invest in projects that make economic and environmental sense. 

 Invest only in true research: The bill includes $4.6 billion for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) demonstration projects (Title IV). Those projects should only receive funding if they are designed specifically to produce data about the costs of CCS, the potential to displace older coal plants, and the technical feasibility, timing, and risks of the technology. Any demonstration project must not have negative impacts on communities, air and water quality, or biological resources; must not supplant options that focus first on energy efficiency; and must not use coal from mountaintop mines.

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