Billions of dollars in environmental justice funds are hanging in the balance

Tens of billions of dollar for U.S. environmental justice programs originally proposed in a $3.5 Trillion domestic spending package are now hanging in the balance as Democrats decide how they will trim the bill to $2 trillion.

Billions of dollars in environmental justice funds are hanging in the balance

The Build Back Better plan proposed investments in many of these projects. However, Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Krysten Silena from Arizona demanded that this bill be reduced. Manchin asked for the bill to be cut by half.

Now, Democratic leaders seek to reconcile divergent views among progressive and moderate legislators over the bill's size and scope. Republicans are in complete opposition to President Joe Biden’s proposal so Democrats will need to hold onto slim House and Senate majority numbers to pass it. Although leaders have given an Oct. 31 deadline for voting, this may be pushed back as they struggle to reach consensus.

A number of congressional aides spoke in background to discuss ongoing negotiations. While no one could give an estimate on how much environmental justice spending would be cut from reconciliation bills, they said that it was impossible to predict the exact amount. However, the total amount for such initiatives will certainly be lower than the $80 billion originally proposed.

The largest spending proposals included $20 billion to replace America's lead water pipes and $15.5 billion to establish a greenhouse gas reduction fund. $10 billion was also proposed for expanding public transit access near affordable housing. Other initiatives included $5 billion in block grants for environmental and climate justice projects; $2.5 billion to provide solar access in low-income communities; and $2.5 Billion for cleanup of abandoned mines.

This high-stakes wrangling takes place two months after the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change declared the warming planet a code red for humanity. It also happens just weeks before Biden meets to discuss global climate and environmental policy at the U.N. Climate Change Summit known as COP26.

Environmental justice advocates across the country are closely monitoring domestic spending negotiations in Washington and lobbying legislators to keep as many of their initiatives and money as possible.

Ellen Sciales, Sunrise Movement's communications director, stated that "when we hear that $3.5 trillion will get watered down... it's honestly unacceptable." "The urgency of the moment cannot be (overstated).

For several weeks, environmental activists from across the country have been holding protests calling for the passage of the $3.5 trillion package by Senate Democrats. The possibility of a reduction in the package is threatening activists who worry that environmental justice projects that could benefit their communities' health will be lost.

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