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Common Ground on Infrastructure: Letter to the Senate

July 9, 2021
Dear Senator:

The undersigned organizations represent a diverse group of bi-partisan stakeholders across the political spectrum, including advocates for market-based climate solutions, good jobs, transit equity, sustainable energy and agriculture, and faith leaders, and we urge you to include common-sense solutions to create jobs and reduce emissions as part of a bi-partisan infrastructure package.

This broad coalition of organizations have come together to find “Common Ground on Climate” and developed a platform that emerged from listening sessions with people from both sides of our political divide, including advocates and policy experts from rural and low-income neighborhoods, with a special focus on the Midwest and Southeast. Our platform would create jobs, save money, make us healthier, increase energy independence, and tackle climate change.

We call on you to come together and advance targeted investments in the American economy, including the following shared priorities:

  1. Plant Trees and Conserve Forests 
  • Without tree cover, heat islands drive up utility bills and create unsafe living conditions, especially for Americans who are elderly or have medical conditions. 
  • Preserving and enhancing forests is essential for addressing climate change.
  1. Weatherize and Solarize homes, businesses and schools
  • Weatherizing low-income homes is a quadruple win by: improving home comfort and safety, saving money on utility bills, reducing pollution, and creating good jobs.
  • Programs such as the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Community Development Block Grants and Small Business Administration loans, are all oversubscribed at current funding levels, and increased funding for these programs would directly help homeowners and business owners upgrade building efficiency. 
  • Adding solar to rooftops of homes and businesses and community-based solar projects can help lower energy costs, decrease the need for new power plants, and reduce emissions.
  1. Deploy zero-emission school and transit buses, electrify ports, and add EV charging stations at public and non-profit gathering places
  • Diesel exhaust damages humans’ lungs and circulatory systems, and is especially harmful for young children. Replacing diesel buses and trucks with zero-emission vehicles will both improve public health and reduce greenhouse gases. 
  • Many community hubs are not-for-profit and can’t take advantage of tax credits. Grants and low/no interest loans can directly help schools, community centers, and places of worship provide convenient charging and community learning about electric vehicles.
  1. Invest in more convenient and frequent transit service
  • Investing in public transit boosts mobility options and increases access to opportunity, essential services and jobs. Higher frequency and higher quality service help save riders time and money, resulting in increased ridership that lowers traffic congestion and emissions for everyone.
  1. Support sustainable and regenerative agriculture.
  • Expanding existing programs and creating new programs to support farmers’ adoption of sustainable farming practices, improvements to soil health, and long-term emissions reductions would help reduce agricultural emissions.
  • Supporting rotating loan funds that diversify risk and focus on small and minority owned businesses and farms that provide sustainability benefits would increase opportunity to make investments in sustainability and improve economic stability.

In order for these programs and investments in transportation, energy and natural solutions to deliver the most economic benefit, they should be distributed through processes that center community engagement and community needs. A significant portion of grants and loans should be issued for projects that communities themselves design to reduce emissions and meet community needs, rather than solely relying on a federal formula to determine which projects are funded. And removing barriers to clean energy deployment would empower more households and businesses to take climate action.

In order to train the workforce for 21st Century jobs, make sure jobs created are good jobs, and address the labor shortage in STEM skilled trades, federal infrastructure investment should pay prevailing wages and offer on-the-job apprenticeship training opportunities. Greater targeted investment is also needed for programs that increase interest in STEM and vocational careers in high school and provide training and educational incentives in these growing fields. Ensuring federal investments and training programs are reaching and supporting people who face employment barriers, such as veterans, people with disabilities, and people who were formerly incarcerated, will also boost employment opportunities and economic growth in low-income communities. 

And finally, we urge you to invest in and support the genius and talent of entrepreneurs who live in or are from underinvested communities. Many of these entrepreneurs have solutions that will help solve our most pressing climate and economic problems if they have the financing and opportunity to build and scale their businesses. Prioritizing grants for disadvantaged small businesses will maximize the impact of grant and program dollars and deliver broad economic benefits. 

Thank you for taking action to advance clean energy infrastructure and investing in our economy to benefit all Americans for generations to come.

Respectfully,

American Conservation Coalition
Conservation Voters of South Carolina
Dream Corps Green For All
Ecology Center
Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association
Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities
Mobilify Southwestern Pennsylvania
North Carolina Council of Churches
North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light

Pinehurst Farmers Market
Pittsburghers for Public Transit
Policy Matters Ohio
Sparks & McNeill
Sustain Charlotte
The Greening of Detroit
3MPH Planning & Consulting
Thrive at Life: Working Solutions
Vote Solar
WV Center on Budget and Policy

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