September 14, 2021

Chair DeFazio Opening Statement from Committee Markup of the Build Back Better Act

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) during today’s committee markup to consider the committee’s portion of the Build Back Better Act. Video of DeFazio’s opening statement is here. More information on the markup can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

Today, we are here to deliver for the American people.

We are here to Build Back Better with critical investments to ensure that our transportation systems and infrastructure are ready to meet the pressing challenges we face.

From tackling climate change, to addressing the racial and environmental injustices of the past, to ensuring our infrastructure can stand up to stronger and more frequent extreme weather events, the stakes here are enormous.

We can choose to seize this historic opportunity and reimagine our transportation sector for a new era of decarbonized travel and reconnected communities. Or we can fall short, and lock in a status quo approach that has already led us to the brink of a climate catastrophe.

I intend to fight like hell for the first option and that’s what the legislation our committee is considering today represents.

Our legislation makes robust investments we need throughout our transportation sector and beyond to finally respond to the climate crisis with the urgency it has always deserved—all while making strides towards a more equitable and just society. 

Here are some highlights of the legislative text that our committee is considering today:

It includes $4 billion for reduction of carbon pollution in the surface transportation sector—addressing the largest source of transportation greenhouse gas emissions. This includes funding for the Federal Highway Administration to establish a greenhouse gas performance measure—funding to incentivize states to show significant reductions in carbon use with an eye towards achieving net-zero surface transportation emissions by 2050, and a substantial investment in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by local governments, tribes, and territories.

The legislation also invests $10 billion in public transportation options to access affordable housing. These investments are badly needed to meet the mobility needs of people to get to and from jobs and essential services, and will also help break the crippling cycle of car dependence that is required to live in so many communities—which negatively impacts our planet and places a financial burden on working families. 

This legislation also includes a long-overdue investment in high-speed rail. A less car-centric future means more options for business travelers and families. That’s why we’re making a bold, ten-billion-dollar investment in the future of rail today—supporting the planning and development of public high-speed rail projects.

In addition to surface transportation, we’re also reducing carbon pollution from the aviation sector. We’re providing $1 billion for the Department of Transportation to support investments for projects that develop or apply low-emission aviation technologies or produce, transport, blend, or store sustainable aviation fuels.

We’re taking the same approach with ports—we’ve included $2.5 billion to reduce the impact of ports on our environment—including projects designed to reduce congestion and support offshore wind.

As we’ve all tragically seen in recent weeks between wildfires out West, hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, and flooding in the Northeast—we are already living in a climate crisis, not simply preparing for one.

That’s why we made significant investments in responding to these ongoing climate disasters a priority when crafting this legislation.

We provide $300 million in FEMA grants to states and local communities to implement hazard-resistant designs and standards for buildings and another $425 million for emergency operations centers—places that will unfortunately be seeing a lot more use in this era of climate crisis.

We are also taking aim at the legacy of discrimination that has been embedded in the status quo of our transportation policy for far too long.

No longer will we keep repairing and rebuilding highways that were built to divide minority communities simply because we have always done so.

In this bill, we will invest $4 billion to reconnect communities that were divided by highways to support neighborhood equity, safety, and affordable transportation access.

This total includes grants to remove or mitigate the impacts of these transportation facilities on disadvantaged or underserved communities.

We will also support equitable transportation planning and community engagement activities to help ensure that infrastructure projects do not lead to the displacement of existing residents—especially in the communities that have seen this happen time and time again.

There’s so much more in this bill, from economic development assistance to wastewater infrastructure grants and climate-resilient Coast Guard infrastructure that I look forward to discussing in more depth as we move forward.

I want to conclude by thanking my colleagues who have helped get us to this point. I look forward to working hard with all of you until these critical investments are signed into law.

I now recognize Ranking Member Graves for his opening statement.