Statement: Bipartisan transportation bill in Senate marks progress on climate, but leaves room for improvement

Media Contacts
Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

Senate panel considers $303.5 billion road spending bill with $19 billion for climate


WASHINGTON — The Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works will consider a bipartisan long-term transportation spending bill on Wednesday put forward by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 sets a new baseline funding level at an all-time high of $303.5 billion over five years for Department of Transportation programs for highways, roads and bridges. The bill features $19 billion for climate-related investments, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure, resiliency and other carbon reduction programs. 

U.S. PIRG environment campaigns director Matt Casale issued the following statement:

“It is a positive step forward to see bipartisan support in the Senate for a bill that not only acknowledges the need to address transportation’s climate impact but also includes important carbon reduction programs. This is long overdue, and we hope this marks a turning point. From now on, we shouldn’t have to ask whether transportation policy and climate policy belong together. We can all agree they do. 

“Still, while the inclusion of the climate provisions, walking and biking programs, and electric vehicle charging is encouraging, in too many ways this bill in its current form preserves American transportation’s status quo. We need to set clearer emission reduction goals that are both mandatory and apply to all federal highway funding. And while America’s roads and bridges need repair, state governments continue to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into unnecessary highway construction and expansion. These misguided choices harm our communities and increase emissions. It’s time for the federal government to adopt a ‘fix-it-first’ approach to highway funding that puts repair of existing infrastructure before new or expanded highways. 

“Another problem with this bill is that it adds streamlining provisions to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including one which allows for the use of categorical exclusions for federal highways. NEPA is really simple, it requires the federal government to look before it leaps on projects.  It is a powerful tool that encourages smart and sustainable infrastructure decisions, and if anything it should be strengthened in this legislation.”

“Again, we commend the bipartisan nature of this agreement and its support for climate provisions and investment in a surface transportation bill.  This is a good step forward.  We look forward to working with senators as the bill moves forward on higher emissions reductions and a ‘fix it first’ approach, as well as removing the NEPA provisions.”