Build Back Better: What’s Changed?

Updates on the revised Build Back Better Act
November 11, 2021

Updated November 11, 2021

Recently, President Biden brought forward an updated framework for the Build Back Better Act. This $1.75 trillion spending package certainly is not the same bill that was originally introduced more than a month ago, but there are some huge climate wins still included.

In the meantime, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes more than $80 billion to fund a clean energy transition and fight climate change — and President Biden is expected to sign off on it on Monday. It’s a good start, but pales in comparison to the $555 billion budgeted to help fight climate change in the Build Back Better Act.

What’s Changed in Build Back Better?

In total, this revised bill will include $555 BILLION for dozens of climate policies focused on the country’s biggest polluting sectors: power generation, transportation and industrial manufacturing. The breakdown now looks something like this:

  • $320 billion in tax breaks for clean energy (including rebates for electric heat pumps, water heaters, stovetops and home weatherization) and electric vehicles (including updates to transmission and battery storage)
  • $105 billion in climate resilience funding (check out our story map on climate resilience in NW Washington) and pollution reduction for frontline communities
  • $110 billion ​​for investments and incentives for clean energy technology, manufacturing and supply chains
  • $27 billion in support for federal, state and tribal forests
  • $9 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which helps farmers make their land more sustainable
  • $4 billion for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the largest conservation program in the U.S.
  • $200 million for the Endangered Species Act
  • $250 million for wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas

What Didn’t Make the Cut?

Revisions aside, this bill is still considered the largest investment in U.S. climate action in history. However, it doesn’t include everything we originally hoped for. Cut from this bill was the Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP), which would have paid utility providers if they matched clean energy standards and fined them if they didn’t. Also cut was a fee on methane emissions (one of the most potent greenhouse gases) among other provisions.  To paraphrase energy writer Dave Roberts, the big sticks are gone, but there are still a s#*t-ton of carrots.

Where Do We Go From Here?

A vote is expected on Build Back Better by Thanksgiving (though that date has been regularly been pushed back since September). More updates are possible, meaning we won’t know for sure what’s included and what’s not for a little longer. But President Biden has expressed confidence in getting enough votes to pass the bill one way or another.

We know the process has been long and frustrating, but we’ve still had an impact. More than 100 RE Sources supporters sent messages to their elected officials to hold the line on this bill, and climate champions in Congress are working to ensure Build Back Better moves forward.

While it’s true that we’re looking at less than what we’d originally hoped for with Build Back Better, now we know what we have to bring to our local officials. Much of what couldn’t be accomplished at the federal level could absolutely happen at the state and municipal level. Northwest Washington has the opportunity to lead on climate victories. We have a view of the cracks and now it’s time to step in with solutions and repairs.


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