Jen Psaki ( Photo by Cameron Smith)
Jen Psaki ( Photo by Cameron Smith)

Press Secretary Jen Psaki is joined by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan at the podium to outline Biden’s infrastructure goals around the environment and climate. Delaney Tarr reports on the press briefing.

Today, the White House pushed back against criticism of the bipartisan infrastructure framework’s climate focus with a defense of the agreement, calling it a “historic investment” in water and climate infrastructure. 

After conflict surrounding the bipartisan framework and reconciliation bill, Congress is moving forward with the pared-down package. 

Climate protests have gathered outside the White House in criticism of the bipartisan framework which omits many of the broad clean-energy proposals in President Joe Biden’s original infrastructure deal. 

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush joined the protests on Monday to call for more action from Biden.

We made it clear the first time @POTUS, you’re going to hear our demands, whether we’re inside or outside of the White House. You haven’t responded.

Now we’re back to make sure you understand us clearly: It’s #NoClimateNoDeal and No Compromises, No Excuses.— Sunrise Movement

EPA Administrator Michael Regan spotlighted the deal’s focus on water infrastructure, a part of Biden’s American Jobs Plan that carried through to the new framework. 

Regan said there were a whopping 6-10 million lead service lines that needed to be replaced in America, an issue he said places low income people and communities of color at a higher risk for lead contaminated drinking water. 

The deal aims to fully fund efforts to eliminate and replace 100% of lead water pipes and service lines in the nation. Reuters found 68% of Americans support replacing all lead pipes.  

Still, Biden made clear that the bipartisan water focus is only the first step. In a recent op-ed for Yahoo news, Biden wrote on the bill’s shortcomings. 

“While the bill is missing some critical initiatives on climate change that I proposed — initiatives I intend to pass in the reconciliation bill — the infrastructure deal nonetheless represents a crucial step forward in building our clean energy future,” said Biden in the op-ed.

Despite the major cuts in climate-focused infrastructure funding, the administration still highlighted key climate components in the bipartisan framework. 

A White House memo listed the billions of dollars in funding that would go to addressing legacy pollution and supporting union jobs. It also addressed funding for electric vehicle infrastructure, a highlight of Biden’s climate goals. 

The White House has said Biden will continue to champion his original American Jobs Plan as well as the bipartisan infrastructure framework to achieve goals of clean energy benefits, funding and tax cuts.

Heat Waves taking the West

EPA Administrator Regan then pivoted focus to the current record-breaking temperatures sweeping the Pacific Northwest. The heat has begun to subside in the area, but the West faces continued threats of sweltering temperatures. 

Portland set an all-time high of 116 degrees on Monday, and the heat wave has created concern surrounding the area’s ill-equipped infrastructure. Regan focused on another climate threat looming on the horizon: wildfires. 

The administrator had just attended the President’s meeting on wildfires with Western governors, calling it a “major public health challenge”. To combat the issue of dangerous air quality, he said the EPA has developed new tools like air sensors and mobile applications. 

He also focused on preparation for the wildfires. 

“This is one powerful example of why we need to do more, to rebuild our infrastructure, that can withstand the impacts of climate,” said Regan. The words target the buckling roads and melting cables in the Pacific Northwest.

The White House has promoted their infrastructure plan as a path towards improvement for the impacts of a changing climate, citing a nearly $50 billion investment in drought, wildfire, flood and multi-hazard resilience programs. 

According to a Data for Progress polling memo,  61% of voters think the government should provide more assistance to cities and states for improving the resiliency of infrastructure to extreme weather events.

Search-and-Rescue at Surfside

Efforts continue in Surfside Florida after the partial collapse of Champlain Towers South last week. Rescue crews are now on their 7th day of search-and-rescue, with a count of 16 people dead and 147 still missing. The team’s efforts have been hampered by continued inclement weather.

Regan said the EPA has regional offices deploying air monitoring systems amid high levels of dust and particles in the air. Regan reassured concerns that first responders on the Surfside scene would fall victim to the same health problems of those involved during 9/11 and its aftermath. 

“I’m confident that our agency is partnered with the sister agencies to provide the latest and best information so that those on the ground can govern themselves in a very safe way,” said Regan.

There is no clear answer to the cause of the collapse yet, but early investigations point to failures at the base of the building.The EPA has said they lack information to determine if the collapse is a result of climate change. 

EPA headquarters and regional offices are both working with the state of Florida to gather more data. 

The President and First Lady are set to travel to South Florida tomorrow to meet with first responders and families of the victims. There are not yet reports of whether the pair will meet with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, although Biden said he had a conversation with the governor late last week.

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