Environmental spending bill tees up multi-year federal hiring, training investments

The Inflation Reduction Act would give the Postal Service $1.29 billion to purchase electric vehicles, and $975 million to GSA to support emerging sustainable t...

An environmental spending bill passed by the Senate over the weekend gives agencies a major opportunity to increase hiring and training over the next decade, if the House also passes it.

The Inflation Reduction Act, however, cleared its biggest obstacle on Sunday, when the Senate passed it in a 51-50 floor vote after an all-night session of votes, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

The legislation would give the IRS $80 billion over the next decade to rebuild its workforce, having seen its headcount shrink after years of budget cuts.

The Postal Service stands out as one of the bill’s biggest benefactors when it comes to sustainable infrastructure.

The agency would receive $3 billion for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, after it recently announced it would buy more electric vehicles as part of its next-generation fleet than it originally planned.

More broadly, the bill directs federal agencies administering the bill’s climate and environment spending to ramp up hiring and training for their employees.

It also outlines a major investment in upgrading federal buildings to make them more sustainable and resilient to the impacts of climate change.’

The bill’s estimated $740 billion in spending is a fraction of the $3.5 trillion package President Joe Biden envisioned in the Build Back Better Act, but the president said the bill makes the “largest investment ever in combatting the existential crisis of climate change.”

“I ran for president promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period,” Biden said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday called the bill the “boldest climate package in U.S. history.”

“The Senate has now passed the most significant bill to fight the climate change crisis ever,” Schumer said at a press conference Sunday following the bill’s passage.

The House is expected to vote on the bill this Friday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called the legislation “one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in years.”

USPS gets $3B for electric vehicles

The legislation gives USPS $1.29 billion to purchase electric vehicles, and the remaining $1.71 billion for the “purchase, design and installation of the requisite infrastructure” to support electric delivery vehicles — either at USPS-owned or leased facilities.

USPS has until September 2031 to spend the funds, “in addition to amounts” otherwise appropriated by Congress.

The USPS inspector general’s office would receive an additional $15 million to oversee the agency’s spending.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) praised the Senate for passing the bill with “committee priorities for which I have long fought,” including the $3 billion for USPS electric vehicles.

“The Inflation Reduction Act is a transformative opportunity to achieve historic progress on issues championed by Democrats, including reducing health care and energy costs and fighting the climate crisis,” Maloney said.

USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum said last week that the agency expects the “electric portion of our fleet to evolve upward,” if its financial circumstances improve.

“We have been monitoring the interest of Congress in funding an increase in electrification and should funding be enacted we will assess the impact on our plans,” Frum said.

USPS recently announced it will, for now, only plan to buy the 50,000 next-generation delivery vehicles (NGDVs) it ordered in March, the minimum outlined in its contract with Oshkosh Defense.

The agency, however, now ensures no less than 50% of those custom-built vehicles will be electric vehicles.

To replace its aging vehicle fleet more immediately, USPS plans to purchase 34,500 commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) vehicles over a two-year period.

All told, USPS expects 40% of these 84,500 vehicles will be electric.

GSA to invest in ‘high-performance green buildings’

The General Services Administration would get $975 million to support emerging sustainable technologies, and an additional $250 million to convert federal facilities to “high-performance green buildings.”

GSA would also receive $2.15 billion for low-carbon materials in the construction and upgrade of federal buildings, especially those that “have substantially lower levels of embodied greenhouse gas emissions” compared to industry standard materials, as determined by the Environmental Protect Agency.

The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, which already serves as a coordinating body for projects under the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, would get $350 million for environmental review improvement.

NPS gets funds to hire, address maintenance backlog

The National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management would get $250 million to manage the “conservation, protection, and resiliency of lands and resources” they oversee.

The National Park Service would get $500 million through September 2030 to hire front-line employees for the National Park System, or national historic or national scenic trails it manages.

NPS would get an additional $200 million through September 2026 to carry out priority deferred maintenance projects.

The Interior Department, more broadly, would get $150 million through September 2026 for tasks that include hiring and training employees, developing environmental data and information systems, and improving community engagement.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would get $125 million to rebuild and restore units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, as well as state wildlife management areas.

The money would go toward addressing the threat of invasive species, increasing the resiliency and capacity of habitats and infrastructure to withstand weather events and reducing the amount of damage caused by weather events.

The bill allows USFWS to spend the money on its direct operations, or award grants and contracts to outside parties.

NOAA gets forecasting, ‘hurricane hunter’ aircraft

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would get $150 million through September 2026 for the construction of new facilities, facilities in need of replacement, piers, marine operations facilities, and fisheries laboratories.

NOAA would get an additional $20 million “to conduct more efficient, accurate, and timely reviews for planning, permitting and approval processes through the hiring and training of personnel, and the purchase of technical and scientific services and new equipment, and to improve agency transparency, accountability, and public engagement.”

NOAA would also get $150 million to remain available until September 2026 “to accelerate advances and improvements in research, observation systems, modeling, forecasting, assessments, and dissemination of information to the public as it pertains to the ocean and atmospheric processes related to weather, coasts, oceans, and climate,” under the 2017 Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act.

It would also receive $190 million for the procurement of additional high-performance computing, data processing capacity, data management, and storage assets to carry out its duties under the 1991 High-Performance Computing Act.

NOAA would also get $100 million to purchase hurricane hunter aircraft under the 2017 Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act

White House training, data investments

The Energy Department would get $115 million to spend through September 2026, part of which would go toward hiring and training personnel and equipment to support environmental review.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality would get $32.5 million to spend through September 2026 to support data collection efforts related to disproportionate negative environmental harms and climate impacts and cumulative impacts of pollution and temperature support.

CEQ would get an additional $30 million to train personnel, develop programmatic environmental documents, developing tools, guidance, and techniques to improve stakeholder and community engagement.

The Office of Management and Budget would get $25 million to oversee the implantation of the act, as well as “track labor, equity and environmental standards and performance.”

The Government Accountability Office would get $25 million to support the oversight and distribution of funds, and “whether the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the funds … are equitable.”

The Environmental Protection Agency would get $40 million to spend through September 2026, to develop “efficient, accurate, and timely reviews for permitting and approval processes.”

The bill allows the agency will spend the funds on hiring and training of personnel, as well as the purchase of new equipment for environmental analysis and “other analysis tools, techniques, and guidance to improve agency transparency, accountability, and public engagement.”

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