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Exxon-Influenced Senators Carved Climate Out of Infrastructure Almost Entirely

The latest infrastructure negotiations cut about $29 billion from the previous draft, taking most from climate funding.

Senators Rob Portman and Kyrsten Sinema answer questions from members of the press during a news conference after a procedural vote for the bipartisan infrastructure framework at Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The final negotiations over the infrastructure bill have ground funding down to a paltry $550 billion, from what began as a $2.25 trillion proposal from President Joe Biden.

The bipartisan group of senators overseeing the negotiations cut about $29 billion in new spending from the previous draft, eliminating $20 billion of what little climate spending was left in the bill, E&E News reported.

Compared to the previous draft of the bill announced in June, the latest and final draft of the bill removes $10 billion from public transit spending and $5 billion from electric school bus funding. It also effectively cut electric vehicle charging infrastructure in half from the previous draft from $15 billion to $7.5 billion.

The cuts are yet another instance of drastic reductions that the bipartisan group has repeatedly made to climate provisions from Biden’s original proposal. Electric vehicle funding fell by nearly 96 percent from the first proposal of $174 billion, and transportation funding in general took a $263 billion cut.

The bipartisan group, along with Biden, touted the bill as a success. “This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things,” Biden said in a statement.

But, so far, the infrastructure negotiations have done more to frustrate Democratic lawmakers and progressive movements than to give them something to celebrate. Progressives have been saying for months that they wouldn’t support a bill that didn’t sufficiently address the climate crisis, adopting the mantra “no climate, no deal.”

The sharp cuts to climate provisions in the bipartisan deal are a sharp contrast from the $10 trillion climate, justice and infrastructure bill that progressives had introduced earlier this year, called the THRIVE Act. The bill aims to reduce emission while boosting justice initiatives over the next decade, and climate advocates have lauded it as one of the only proposals in Washington that comes close to matching the scale of the climate crisis.

Though the THRIVE Act has little chance of passing, all hope isn’t lost for climate-focused progressives. Democrats were hoping to tack on climate and other provisions cut from the negotiations onto a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that they could pass through a simple majority vote as long as all Democratic senators were on board.

However, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Arizona) recently announced opposition to that plan, throwing progressive support for watered-down reconciliation and infrastructure bills into question.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) highlighted the enormous sacrifices of bipartisanship.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) pointed out that the motivation of the bipartisan group to cut climate provisions from the bill might have come directly from fossil fuel lobbyists. “Exxon lobbyists bragged about how much influence they had in this deal,” she said on Twitter. “This is what that influence looks like,” she said, sharing the E&E News report on the climate provisions being cut.

Indeed, an explosive June report from Greenpeace found that Exxon, continuing decades-long practices of fighting climate policy, was “working hard behind the scenes to eliminate the proposed funding” for Biden’s climate policies.

The lobbyists had also targeted a number of the conservative Republicans and Democrats in the bipartisan group, including Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Sinema, John Tester (D-Montana), Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia).

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