Biden's American Jobs Plan - What's in it for Oceans?

On Wednesday, March 31, President Biden announced his American Jobs Plan, which is the first in his two part Build Back Better campaign. The second part will focus on some Democrats’ more progressive goals, such as making the expanded child tax credit permanent, investing in child care, increasing the minimum wage, and making community college tuition free. The second part is expected to be announced in mid-April.


The American Jobs Plan comes in at more than $2 trillion over eight years and is estimated to be paid off in 15 years when coupled with a corporate tax hike from 21 to 28 percent. As Senior White House officials put it, the plan would affect how we move, how we live at home, how we care for one another, and how we manufacture. The plan is intended to, “unify and mobilize the country to meet the great challenges of our time: the climate crisis and the ambitions of an autocratic China.”


What’s in it for oceans?

The main focus of the plan is on job creation and more traditional infrastructure with a major focus on climate change mitigation and resilience. A total of $621 billion for transportation infrastructure and resilience included only $17 billion allocated to ports. This sum does not reflect the importance of our ports and working waterways to the U.S. economy, and as we saw with the incident in the Suez Canal this week, ocean infrastructure is a critical piece of our global economy.


The plan funds infrastructure resilience at $50 billion, though it is unclear what portion of that would go to coastal resilience, and they make mention of protecting and restoring nature-based infrastructure including coastal and ocean resources, but provided no further details.


Research and development get a major boost in this plan, including $50 billion for NSF and $35 billion to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency - Climate (ARPA-C) to position the U.S. as a leader on clean energy and climate resilience. The plan also calls on Congress to invest $10 billion in a new Civilian Climate Corps that could include coastal projects.


A full breakdown of these ocean-relevant sections of the plan can be found below.


Though this plan makes practically no mention of offshore wind, the Administration already announced a hefty down-payment on offshore wind investment on Monday this week. They introduced a new wind area in the New York Bight, established a target of 30 Gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, and announced a number of other initiatives to spur the industry. They also said they would provide $1 million to Northeast Sea Grants in one-time grants to study impacts on coastal economies and “optimizing co-use.” This announcement makes clear that offshore wind will be a major part of the Biden administration’s plan to reach net-zero emissions from the grid by 2030.


What happens next?


This is just a plan, not an Executive Order, and has no legal impact at this time. President Biden is outlining his broad details and wishes, and the next step is for Congress to take this and turn it into a bill - which, rest assured, will include their priorities as well. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is putting a bill together in the next month or so.


While the White House is still talking about finding bipartisan support for the plan, this bill will almost certainly be done under budget reconciliation and will not require any Republican support, just like the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Democrats passed earlier this month. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has already been appealing to the parliamentarian to allow Democrats to do more than one reconciliation bill based on the FY 2021 budget resolution. Democrats may need more than one reconciliation bill to do this.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told her caucus that she wants to pass this $2.5 trillion package by the July 4 recess. This is an extremely tight timeline, and Democrats hold a very small majority, with progressives and moderates pulling in different directions. Expect a mad dash in Congress to get this done over the summer. And don’t forget - government funding and budget caps expire on September 30.


American Jobs Plan - Summary of Ocean-relevant Sections


$17 billion for waterways and ports

  • President Biden calls on Congress to invest an additional $17 billion in inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries, which are all essential to our nation’s freight. This includes a Healthy Ports program to mitigate the cumulative impacts of air pollution on neighborhoods near ports, often communities of color. These investments will position the United States as a global leader in clean freight and aviation.


Coastal Resilience

$50 billion in dedicated investments to improve infrastructure resilience

  • Increase resilience of the built environment through FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program, new initiatives at the Department of Transportation, a bipartisan tax credit to provide incentives to low- and middle-income families and to small businesses to invest in disaster resilience, and transition and relocation assistance to support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities.

  • Protect and, where necessary, restore nature-based infrastructure including lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal and ocean resources.

  • Invest in protection from extreme wildfires, coastal resilience to sea-level rise and hurricanes, support for agricultural resources management and climate-smart technologies, and the protection and restoration of major land and water resources like Florida’s Everglades and the Great Lakes.

  • Empower local leaders to shape these restoration and resilience project funds in line with the Outdoor Restoration Force Act.


Research and Development

  • $25 billion for a dedicated fund to support ambitious projects that have tangible benefits to the regional or national economy but are too large or complex for existing funding programs.

  • $50 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a technology directorate that will collaborate with and build on existing programs across the government. It will focus on fields like semiconductors and advanced computing, advanced communications technology, advanced energy technologies, and biotechnology.

  • $30 billion in additional funding for R&D that spurs innovation and job creation, including in rural areas.

  • $40 billion in upgrading research infrastructure in laboratories across the country, including brick-and-mortar facilities and computing capabilities and networks.

  • These funds would be allocated across the federal R&D agencies, including at the Department of Energy. Half of those funds will be reserved for Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions, including the creation of a new national lab focused on climate that will be affiliated with an HBCU.


ARPA-C

  • $35 billion in the full range of solutions needed to achieve technology breakthroughs that address the climate crisis and position America as the global leader in clean energy technology and clean energy jobs. This includes launching ARPA-C to develop new methods for reducing emissions and building climate resilience, as well as expanding across-the-board funding for climate research.

  • $5 billion increase in funding for other climate-focused research

  • $15 billion in demonstration projects for climate R&D priorities, including utility-scale energy storage, floating offshore wind, biofuel/bioproducts, and strengthening U.S. technological leadership in these areas in global markets.


Civilian Climate Corps

  • $10 billion to put a new, diverse generation of Americans to work conserving public lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, and advancing environmental justice through a new Civilian Climate Corps.

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