Building Back Better with a Strong Reconciliation Package

OEC and nearly 50 other state-based partners call on congressional leaders to build back better through bold investments in climate, jobs, and justice.

August 26, 2021 

RE: Please help Oregon build back better by supporting an equitable economic recovery and health outcomes, family-sustaining jobs, and a transition to a clean energy economy. 

Dear Senator, 

Throughout this summer, Oregonians across the state have experienced record-breaking heat waves, which have killed some 100 people, sent thousands to emergency rooms for heat-related illness, and forced dozens of small businesses to close their doors. With climate-fueled extreme heat, drought, and wildfires already wreaking havoc on the lives of Oregonians–threatening our state’s economic recovery, worsening health crises, and disproportionately affecting frontline communities–we cannot afford to dig ourselves deeper into climate catastrophe with a business-as-usual approach to rebuilding. Rather, we must seize the opportunity to build back better with strong investments that drive equitable economic recovery with climate action at a moment when Oregon urgently needs both. 

By creating family-wage jobs, modernizing our infrastructure, and reducing harmful climate pollution, President Biden’s vision for rebuilding can pave the way toward a better, more equitable future for all Oregonians. On behalf of the undersigned groups representing environmental justice, labor, business, culturally-specific, and climate advocacy communities across Oregon, we urge you not to compromise, and to swiftly pass legislation that makes big, bold, and ambitious investments in climate and environmental justice. 

Specifically, we urge you to fully fund President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan by passing a reconciliation package that invests at least an additional $3.5 trillion in our communities, addresses environmental injustice, supports families and public health, advances millions of clean energy jobs, and fights the climate crisis by: 

  • Prioritizing at least 40 percent of investments (e.g. Justice 40) in communities historically and disproportionately impacted by economic disinvestment, health challenges, and environmental harms, including through the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps.
  • Establishing a new clean electricity payment program to transition the U.S. power sector off fossil fuels by 2035 and put hundreds of thousands of people to work modernizing our electric grid.
  • Expanding tax credits for renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric heat pumps, and alternative fuel and electric vehicles–including making them refundable for homes, businesses, and large scale projects–and making needed, strategic investments in grid resilience and reliability, including regionally significant transmission. 
  • Modernizing and addressing inequities in our transportation system by at least doubling investments in mass public transit, bike, and pedestrian projects, and fixing the historic damage of urban highways by connecting communities that have been divided by past transportation investments–thereby slashing harmful tailpipe pollution, advancing environmental justice, and promoting affordable options. 
  • Advancing the electrification of our transportation system through the creation of a national vehicle charging network, transitioning school, public transit, and government vehicle fleets to zero emissions vehicles, investing in the electrification of rural transit systems and promoting opportunities for rural communities to electrify farm vehicles and equipment. 
  • Requiring states to make progress on addressing their road maintenance backlog before expanding or building new highways, and have a plan to maintain new assets. 
  • Supporting workforce development and job training programs to connect workers to good-paying jobs, and promoting the use of prevailing wage, project labor agreements, and apprenticeship requirements. 
  • Bolstering federal research and development for emerging clean energy technologies such as storage and offshore wind, in consultation with tribal and environmental justice communities and with attention to potential environmental justice burdens, to restart our nation’s innovation engine and help the United States achieve its goal of cutting its carbon emissions in half by 2030. 
  • Ensuring every Oregonian has access to safe, affordable drinking water, including by replacing or installing filtration on lead pipes supplying schools, public buildings and private homes, addressing well and septic system safety and water quality, and providing funding for state implementation of Clean Water Act treatment standards for emerging contaminants, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 
  • Investing in climate-smart agriculture conservation, drought, and forestry programs to reduce emissions and advance carbon sequestration on our natural and working lands and promote wildfire mitigation. 
  • Strengthening our nature-based infrastructure to help communities become more resilient in the face of climate disasters, including advancing urban tree canopies to address heat islands, particularly in low-income and BIPOC neighborhoods, and protecting and restoring lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds and other natural resources that Oregonians depend on. 
  • Repairing and replacing failing wastewater and stormwater systems, including those damaged by wildfires, with a particular focus on Tribal, rural, low-income and under-served communities.
  • Revitalizing our digital infrastructure by investing in affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband, including in rural areas and on Tribal lands, which particularly lack adequate access.
  • Ensuring that our cornerstone environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act, are fully maintained and enforced.

By making needed investments in our communities–and prioritizing those historically and disproportionately impacted–the above proposals will support a transition to a clean energy economy that benefits Oregon families and working people, improves health outcomes, lifts up frontline communities, and helps to ensure our economy and communities are more resilient. As you return from August recess, we urge you not to lose sight of the opportunity to build back better. Oregon’s families, workers, and climate cannot afford the cost of inaction. 

We strongly urge you to swiftly pass legislation that makes bold and transformative investments to rebuild a stronger, more equitable, and more resilient Oregon for all. This is our moment to build a new economy with justice and prosperity for every community and a livable planet for future generations. 

Sincerely, 

1000 Friends of Oregon * 350 Deschutes * 350 Eugene * 350 Salem * Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians * Better Eugene-Springfield Transportation * Beyond Toxics BlueGreen Alliance * City of Milwaukie * Climate Jobs PDX * Climate Solutions Community Energy Project * Community for Earth, First Unitarian Church of Portland Democratic Party of Oregon-Environmental Caucus * Douglas County Global Warming Coalition * EcoFaith Recovery * Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon * Elders Climate Action, Oregon Chapter Electrify Now * Extinction Rebellion Portland * Friends of Family Farmers * Green Energy Institute Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center * Metro Climate Action Team * Neighbors for Clean Air Next Up Action Fund * Oregon Business for Climate * Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board * Oregon Environmental Council * Oregon League of Conservation Voters Oregon Solar + Storage Industries Association * Oregon Trails Coalition * Oregon Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice * Oregon Wild * Our Climate * Pacific Forest Trust Participatory Budgeting Oregon * PCUN * Renew Oregon * Res-Intel Safe Routes Partnership, Pacific Northwest Regional Network * Southern Oregon Climate Action Now Southern Oregon Food Solutions * Southern Oregon Pachamama Alliance * The Environmental Center * Verde * Welcome Home Coalition 

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