Two Years After Hurricane Sandy, New Report Demonstrates Economic and Environmental Benefits of Repairing Infrastructure and Protecting Communities from Impacts of Climate Change
WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 24, 2014) – An innovative report released today shows that repairing America’s infrastructure could create 2.7 million jobs across the economy and increase the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $377 billion, while reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions and better protecting communities from the impacts of climate change. The BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations, today held a press call to release the report that analyzed the impact of infrastructure investments on the nation’s economy and environment.
“Repairing our most basic infrastructure systems will make those systems more efficient and prepare our communities for the coming impacts of climate change. But most of all, it will create quality jobs up and down the supply chain—from manufacturing the components of these systems to the installation and operation of them in our communities,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers and Co-Founder of the BlueGreen Alliance.
Making the Grade: How Investments in America’s Infrastructure Benefit Our Economy and Environment examines the benefits of improving America’s infrastructure from an average “D+” grade—the 2013 rating by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Report Card—to a “B” grade over the next ten years and quantifies the potential job creation and economic impact from making those investments. In addition, the report examines the environmental benefits of investing in repairing and upgrading America’s infrastructure systems, including the ability to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a variety of sectors across the economy.
“Poor infrastructure means more waste and pollution. By acting now, we can end the vicious circle we’re in—where outdated and inefficient infrastructure is making climate change worse, and as the climate changes the infrastructure is even more battered by the impacts,” said Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Rebuilding our infrastructure now just makes good sense for our communities, the environment and our economy.”
Making the Grade shows that accelerating infrastructure investment—as laid out in the report—would result in saving nearly 5.7 billion gallons of fuel annually by supporting current growth in transit ridership. Similarly, investments in America’s energy infrastructure would help reach the carbon pollution reduction goals of the Clean Power Plan by investing in more the nation’s electric grid.
In addition, a 5 percent reduction in leaks from drinking water systems would reduce climate change pollution by an equivalent of 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The report also showed that every 5 percent reduced in the amount of solid waste Americans generate could limit greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year—the equivalent emissions for six million U.S. households.
“Underinvestment, deferred maintenance and extreme weather stress our infrastructure networks—endangering communities, wasting energy, and creating excess pollution,” said D. Michael Langford, National President of the Utility Workers Union of America. “We cannot afford to continue to ignore the costs of inaction—inaction on fixing our infrastructure, inaction on climate change—and avoid the significant costs that occur because of that inaction. It’s time to move on repairing our nation’s infrastructure now.”
The report comes just before the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy reaching the East Coast. The storm was the second costliest in U.S. history and exposed how unprepared the nation’s infrastructure systems are to the dangers brought on by climate change, which includes stronger and more frequent storms and rising sea levels. Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $60 to $80 billion in damage, damaged 650,000 homes and left 8.5 million people without power. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), warmer oceans and air along with other changes in global weather patters, more powerful and more frequent hurricanes could be more likely.
“We must find better ways to ensure that local infrastructure makes the grade,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. “Repairing infrastructure systems and addressing climate change go hand-in-hand and both will create good jobs. Reinforcing the power grid, strengthening stormwater drains, and creating communities resilient to climate change will promote economic growth in cities all around our nation.”
“In order to lead in the global economy, America needs to be at the front of the pack when it comes to infrastructure,” said Brian Pallasch, Managing Director of Government Relations & Infrastructure Initiatives for ASCE. “Our Report Card for America’s Infrastructure has called attention to the state of our nation’s infrastructure for over a decade, and this new study provides current insight into the economic and environmental benefits that would come along with making the needed infrastructure investment.”
“Clean water, a reliable and efficient electric grid, uncongested travel—these are the keys to good communities and a strong economy,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “As the backbone of our economy, we need to bolster our infrastructure and make it resilient to the impacts of climate change. By doing so, we can reduce pollution and create good jobs too.”
The group said one way to boost investment now is for Congress to pass a long-term, fully funded transportation bill yet this year. “Congress can jumpstart this by passing a transportation bill in the ‘lame duck’ session still this year,” Glas added.
Listen to the audio from the press call below.