WASHINGTON – Senator Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, who began her political career with the Green Party and raised concerns about global warming, wants to cut at least $ 100 billion from climate programs in major laws pending on Capitol Hill, according to two acquaintances. on business.
Cinema is one of two centrist Senate Democrats whose votes are critical to passing two bills that together will form President Biden’s legislative agenda: a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill and a separate $ 3.5 trillion budget bill.
Last month, Ms Cinema told The Arizona Republic: “We know climate change is costing the Arizona people. And right now we have the opportunity to adopt sensible policies to tackle this problem – I look forward to it. ” In 2018, when she was running for the Senate, Ms Cinema was approved by the Conservation League of Voters. And she expressed interest in using the spending bill to impose a tax or levy on carbon dioxide pollution, which experts say could be one of the most effective ways to mitigate global warming.
But Ms Cinema’s demand to cut climate spending in the budget bill could force Democrats to cut or cut programs designed to help poor communities adapt to climate change, as well as help companies adapt as the economy transitions from fossil fuels to clean energy. …
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a letter to colleagues this week, insisted on maintaining climate programs. “The climate crisis is a health, jobs, national security and moral issue that needs to be passed on responsibly to future generations,” wrote Ms Pelosi. “This problem must be addressed fairly for the vulnerable communities most affected by the climate crisis.”
Mrs. Cinema’s spokesman, John Labombard, flatly denied that Mrs. Cinema required a reduction. “Neither Senator Cinema nor our office has requested or required such cuts, and we have not even heard of any such requirements,” he wrote in an email.
People familiar with her request, who asked to speak anonymously because they were not authorized to speak on the minutes, said she was asking for a cut in the climate program as part of a broader Democratic effort to find ways to lower the price tag of broader spending legislation. Mr Biden originally envisioned a spending package of about $ 3.5 trillion, but Democrats are now trying to cut it to $ 2 trillion to win the support of Ms Cinema and Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, without whose votes the measure would be do not pass.
While Democrats are trying to squeeze $ 1.5 trillion out of the bill, party leaders have pledged to defend at least two major climate change programs, totaling about $ 450 billion.
First, a $ 150 billion proposal, known as the Clean Electricity Program, will reward utilities that switch from burning fossil fuels to wind, solar, or nuclear power, and punish companies that don’t. The second is a package of tax breaks worth about $ 300 billion to increase the use of wind and solar energy and electric vehicles.
Analysts believe the two programs could lead to significant reductions in warming pollution in the country and are likely to be the most important action taken by the United States to combat climate change.
But to bring down the cost of the bill and appease Ms. Cinema, Democrats can still cut or cut another $ 200 billion from several other climate programs.
“Nearly every climate program other than these two will be substantially scaled back or phased out under these circumstances,” said John Coquith, director of government relations at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a research organization focused on climate change policy.
It could be a series of programs to help poor people adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change, as well as $ 30 billion for Green Bank to help communities fund solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations, and $ 30 billion for the Civilian Climate Corps. ”That will recruit young people to work on climate change mitigation and adaptation, half of them from communities of color.
Another possible contender for the spacer block could be a $ 10 billion program to help rural electricity cooperatives, which provide electricity to more than 40 million people in rural communities. The money will be used to reduce price spikes that villagers might see on their electricity bills as cooperatives move from buying coal power to wind and solar. Other potential cuts could include a $ 13 billion program to build new electric vehicle charging stations, including $ 1 billion to ensure these stations are built in low-income areas.
“Without such programs, the economic transition to other sources of energy will be less even and fair,” said Mr Kokit. “There will be communities that will not be able to take advantage of new technologies for a variety of different reasons.”
Reducing aid to local communities will also undermine public support for the transition to a green economy, experts say. “Some of the programs that target rural and low-income communities are really important in maintaining a political coalition to do so,” said Dallas Bertro, an analyst with Resources for the Future, an independent energy and environment research organization. … politics. “If these communities are left behind, it could be both an economic and a political problem.”
Scientists and environmental activists in Arizona say these cuts will ultimately hurt Ms Cinema’s voters.
As one of the hottest and driest states in the country, Arizona is already at the forefront of extreme weather conditions that scientists say are getting worse due to global warming. Arizona is gripped by a multi-year megazade, with 95 percent of the state experiencing severe arid conditions. The state has experienced five droughts since 2012, causing damage totaling $ 22.1 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This year alone, nearly half a million acres of the state’s land have been destroyed by wildfires, but many communities have also been inundated by the monsoons. Arizona reported 522 heat-related deaths in 2020, according to the state.
“The average annual temperature in Arizona has already risen by a couple of degrees due to climate change, which may not seem like much, but because of this, heat waves and droughts have increased, and the snow cover, which is necessary for our water supply and which flows, has decreased. in streams that are important to wildlife health, which is important to our ranchers and farmers, ”said Gregg Garfin, a climatologist at the University of Arizona.
Arizona needs federal help to cope with the hotter climate, he said. “We need labor,” said Mr. Garfin. “We need funding. Many communities in Arizona lack the budget or expertise to do this. It takes real money. And this is very important for Arizona. “
The poor and minorities disproportionately affected by climate change should be included in any government plan, said Viani Olivarria, director of Chispa Arizona, the state arm of the Voters’ League for Conservation of Nature. “There is no way to develop a climate change action plan that lacks environmental justice,” she said.
Democrats at the forefront of the fight against climate change say politics cannot be done without.
“We cannot cut climate finance in this package. It would run counter to a promise made to voters, young people, American workers who don’t want to be left behind, ”said Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat. “We absolutely need a strong Civic Climate Corps to inspire a new generation of young Americans. We need a reliable environmental climate bank that, for every dollar spent, provides $ 7 to $ 10 of private sector investment. This is a very smart way to ensure that every small town, small town housing authority, small business has access to the capital they need to make this transition. ”