Casten, Underwood highlight infrastructure bill's environmental positives

Two suburban lawmakers and the White House climate czar toured two national scientific research facilities Tuesday to promote the economic and environmental benefits of President Biden's proposed infrastructure plan that passed a U.S. Senate hurdle earlier in the day.

Their visit comes a day after the release of a damning report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the state of the worldwide environment. The report states world leaders have to act immediately to reduce human reliance on fossil fuels or risk significant growth of extreme weather events.

U.S. Reps. Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood toured Fermilab in Batavia and Argonne National Laboratory in Darien with an array of local climate leaders to discuss the effects and benefits of the infrastructure bill on the Midwest.

Casten, a Democrat from Downers Grove, said the infrastructure plan would set the country on a path to not only reduce its reliance and fossil fuels but help create economic opportunities for many Americans, particularly in Illinois.

"We have the intellectual tools in this region and we have the resources to do what's necessary. We just barely have the time," he said. "Our moment is right now to do what's necessary."

White House Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy said two "huge" components of the infrastructure plan that federal officials claim will create more than 2 million jobs are upgrades to the nation's power grid to connect renewable energy resources, and investment in electric vehicle infrastructure. McCarthy said the president wants to make climate change a "kitchen table" issue for Americans.

"We don't have to ever talk about climate change if you just want to look at the benefits of the actions that are being taken to normal humans, just talk about what it means for people," McCarthy said outside Fermilab after her tour and roundtable with local officials. "You actually do that by making sure you're talking about economic development and talking about investing in our manufacturing again.

"You're talking about growing 2 million jobs that people can take advantage of. You're talking about homes that are more efficient that will be less expensive to live in. You're talking about an electrical system that won't poop out when it gets too cold or too hot that people will be able to have to protect themselves and keep themselves safe. You're talking about growing food that will advantage us from a climate perspective and deliver really good food on the table."

Biden's trillion-dollar infrastructure bill passed a major hurdle Tuesday in the Senate with rare bipartisan support, 69-30. Scaled down from an original price tag of $2.3 trillion, the bill now heads to the House for a vote.

Underwood, a Democrat from Naperville, said the bill provides a multitude of opportunities for Americans and the world.

"We are facing a historic crisis of climate change right now," she said. "But also historic opportunities. The opportunity to create millions of good jobs, American jobs, that will also improve the health of our planet. And the opportunity to solidify Illinois' role as a global leader in clean energy, cutting-edge scientific research and the fight against climate change."

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