Ossoff pledges continued push for clean energy amid spending plan talks

By: - October 22, 2021 8:51 pm

At an Atlanta Press Club event Friday, the Georgia senator expressed optimism about the potential for reducing carbon emissions through investments in clean energy in spite of the tough ongoing negotiations over the Democrats’ spending package. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder (file photo)

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff pledged Friday to continue fighting for clean energy legislation despite doubts about what policies Congress will be able to pass through President Joe Biden’s sweeping economic plan.

At an Atlanta Press Club event Friday, the Georgia senator expressed optimism about the potential for reducing carbon emissions through investments in clean energy in spite of the tough ongoing negotiations over the Democrats’ spending package. 

Sen. Jon Ossoff spoke Friday on climate change, voting rights and a host of other key issues in Congress as part of the Atlanta Press Club’s Newsmaker Series. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

A $1.2 trillion public infrastructure bill has been stuck in the House for weeks as progressive Democrats demand a much larger reconciliation package that covers climate change but also child care community colleges, immigration, and healthcare.

Originally a $3.5 trillion spending proposal, the scale of the Democrats’ package has been trimmed down to as low as $1.75 trillion. But still, it faces headwinds as the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate has left the package at the mercy of moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.  

Ossoff on Friday cited bipartisan support in the Senate for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure as an example of how groundbreaking legislation can get through Congress. 

“There is still a real potential to get things done,” he said. “We have enacted this, this Senate, the most significant infrastructure legislation in generations with 68 votes from Democrats and Republicans, legislation that will be a tremendous value for the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia.”

With $550 billion in new spending for roads, public transit, broadband and more, the smaller package would mark the largest upgrade to the nation’s public infrastructure in decades.

The bill also sets aside more than $7 billion for electric vehicle charging stations. As a result of the latest negotiations between the parties, a carbon emission tax and a clean electricity program are likely to be on the chopping block for the larger spending bill.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said plans are still in the forefront to address the climate crisis.

But even if the clean energy solutions aren’t included in the reconciliation package, there could be other opportunities to move the needle, Ossoff said. 

Ossoff said expanding renewable energy in Georgia not only helps the environment, but also creates jobs. He pointed to a proposal he introduced this year creating a tax credit that would help reduce the costs of installing rooftop solar panels as an example. He said he thinks this is the kind of clean energy proposal that can garner bipartisan support. 

“I’ve been leading the charge in the Senate on solar energy as well but my focus has been on building bipartisan relationships to pass bills that help our state,” Ossoff said. “Although there’s so much sound and fury in the partisan political space and the national political debate, there is still a real potential to get things done.”

On Friday, Ossoff also discussed the negotiating tactics that he and others used to resolve a trade dispute that threatened a project creating thousands of jobs at the SK Innovation plant in Commerce, which will produce batteries for electric vehicles.

“My vision is that Georgia should lead the country in clean energy manufacturing, clean energy technology,” he said. “And so the decision to get involved in this trade dispute was about recognizing an urgent immediate need for the state that I could play a role as a convener.”

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.