Memo: Sierra Club Highlights Critical Gaps in Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal that Must Be Filled in the Reconciliation Package


*** Senior Sierra Club policy staff and leadership are available to discuss our vision for bigger and bolder infrastructure investments ***

Harmful Provisions Must Also Be Removed to Protect our Climate and Communities

As Senators debate the narrow bipartisan infrastructure package, the Sierra Club has identified a plethora of funding deficiencies in the deal, which falls far short of addressing crucial priorities for climate action, the creation of good jobs, and racial, economic, and environmental justice. 

While the bipartisan deal advances important programs and includes promising funding in some areas, we are calling on Congress to go bigger and bolder in the budget reconciliation process to invest in replacing 100% of lead pipes, electrifying hundreds of thousands of school buses, expanding access to public transit and electric vehicle charging, upgrading rail, modernizing the country’s energy grid, and plugging orphaned oil and gas wells. We urgently need investments as big as the crises we face.

In addition, particular elements of the infrastructure package would actively do harm by funding fossil fuel school buses, providing financing for construction of a gas pipeline in Alaska, and weakening the National Environmental Policy Act. Senators should amend the bipartisan deal to strip out these damaging provisions that would fail to secure our communities’ urgent needs for clean air and water, a livable climate, and a more equitable future.

The Sierra Club also stands by Democrats who have called for the Senate to fully approve a bold reconciliation package before the House takes up the bipartisan deal. That’s the only way to ensure that we tackle the country’s interconnected crises — climate change, racial injustice, mass unemployment, and public health — at the scale and scope required.

See this spreadsheet for a line-by-line comparison of the bipartisan deal, Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and the investment levels backed by movement groups, economic modeling, nationwide polling, and dozens of progressive members of Congress.

See below for a more detailed analysis of the bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled this week.


  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): 

    • The bipartisan deal includes the following investments, which is in line with the fact that 80% of U.S. adults worry about pollution of drinking water.

      • $5 billion to help small and disadvantaged communities address PFAS in drinking water.

      • $4 billion to help drinking water utilities remove PFAS from drinking water supplies or to connect well owners to local water systems.

      • $1 billion to help wastewater utilities address PFAS in wastewater discharges.

  • Abandoned Mine Land:

    • The deal includes $11 billion for an underfunded federal program aimed at reclaiming mine lands abandoned before 1977, resulting in new jobs and economic opportunities.

  • Resilience: 

    • The deal includes $50 billion for climate resilience measures that will help our communities weather increasingly severe storms, droughts, floods, fires, heat waves, and sea level rise. 


  • Replacing lead pipes: 

    • The deal is slated to only include enough funding to replace 25% of lead pipes. Congress needs to deliver more funding in the reconciliation package to achieve Biden's goal of 100% lead pipe replacement. It would be unconscionable for Congress to pass a major infrastructure overhaul that leaves three out of four lead pipes intact. The health impacts of such an omission would harm children first and worst, particularly children in communities of color. The bill includes about $15 billion for lead pipe replacement, while the water industry estimates that $60 billion is needed for full lead pipe replacement. This shortcoming also falls short of what the general public demands; a March 2021 poll found that 80% of voters support funding replacement of lead pipes, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

  • Electric school buses: 

    • The deal includes just $2.5 billion for electric school buses — only 4% of what is needed to replace all diesel school buses with clean electric vehicles. Congress needs to deliver more funding in the reconciliation package to electrify hundreds of thousands of school buses instead of leaving up to 96% of diesel school buses on the road to spew more toxic air and climate pollution.  

  • Public transit: 

    • The deal includes $39 billion in funding for public transit — less than 10% of what’s needed to expand and electrify public transit. That includes a $19 billion increase in transit funding from the Highway Trust Fund, $8 billion for the Capital Investment Grants program, $5.25 billion for the Low or No Emission Vehicle program, $4.75 billion for the State of Good Repair program, and $1.75 billion for the All Stations Accessibility program.
      This is a good start, but nowhere near the $73 billion needed to electrify all public transit buses, the $176 billion needed to clear the public transit maintenance backlog, or the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to expand access to public transit for the 45% of the country that doesn’t have it. A recent national poll shows that 66 percent of U.S. voters would be disappointed if upgrades and expansions to energy-efficient public transportation were omitted from the infrastructure packages.

  • Electric vehicle charging: 

    • The deal invests $7.5 billion, half of what Biden’s American Jobs Plan calls for to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country. That includes funding for a new National Electric Vehicle Formula Program for states to invest in the buildout of EV charging infrastructure. Twice as much is needed to achieve the President’s goal for boosting access to EV charging. 

  • Rail: 

    • The deal invests $66 billion in passenger rail, about one-third of what is needed to upgrade passenger rail for speed, accessibility, efficiency, and resilience. 

  • Grid: 

    • The deal offers $10 billion in grants for grid resiliency — far below the amount needed to harden and modernize the grid.

  • Orphaned wells: 

    • The deal includes $4.7 billion for plugging orphaned oil wells. However, without the inclusion of financial assurances such as bonding reform, there are no assurances that the oil and gas industry will be held accountable for cleaning up its own mess. We support funding for cleanup, but need to see  financial assurances such as bonding reform.

  • Abandoned Mine Land: 

    • The $11 billion investment in the abandoned mine lands (AML) program will be a game-changer for communities bearing the burdens of the environmental and health hazards left behind by coal, providing tens of thousands of jobs where they are needed most. But given the growing estimates for the cost of fully reclaiming AML sites, Congress should also build a full reauthorization of the AML fee into legislation that passes Congress.


  •  Undermining the National Environmental Policy Act: 

    • A litany of provisions undermine informed decision making and meaningful review under NEPA. Legislative categorical exclusions like those included in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act and the Energy Infrastructure Act completely bypass environmental review and public input on projects with potentially severe health and environmental impacts. The sections of the Energy Infrastructure Act focused on public forests and lands have multiple provisions that are not evidence- and science-based, and could exacerbate the global climate, biodiversity, and wildfire crises. 

  • Fossil fuel school buses: 

    • The deal includes $2.5 billion that would be available for both electric and fossil fuel buses, under the moniker of "clean" bus funding. It's absurd that we have to say this: Fossil fuel buses are not clean buses. This funding should be allocated exclusively for electrification of school buses instead of supporting more pollution. 

  • Alaska gas pipeline:

    • The deal contains a provision intended to provide financing to facilitate the construction of the Alaska liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline -- a project that would spur more climate pollution and threaten community health and biodiversity in Alaska. The provision amends the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act to allow the project to access a $25 billion loan guarantee that it would otherwise not qualify for by changing the criteria to allow fossil fuel export projects to qualify. 

    • The Alaska LNG project — which would include an LNG plant, storage and shipping terminal, gas treatment plant, and an 800-mile pipeline — would be among the world's biggest gas development projects and is projected to cost $39 billion. 

    • The project received permits under the Trump administration, including authorization from the Department of Energy to export gas to countries that do not have free trade agreements with the United States. Last month, the Department of Energy announced a plan to order a supplemental environmental review of the project to address deficiencies in the Trump administration's analysis of the project, which would threaten Arctic wildlife and exacerbate the climate crisis. 

  • Keystone XL: 

The deal requires the Department of Energy to spend taxpayer dollars relitigating President Biden’s rejection of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline by producing a report on how its cancellation affected the economy. Keystone XL would have been a disaster for our communities and the climate, and President Biden was right to reject it. Forcing the Department of Energy to relitigate that decision is a waste of time and money.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit