Democrats managed to sneak some serious climate funding into the latest spending bill

Maybe we can save the planet if we just hide the fact that we’re doing it.

President Biden listens during a climate change virtual summit from the East Room of the White House...
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, Congress managed to successfully pass a spending bill that will keep the government funded through September. There wasn’t even much squabbling or threatening to shut down the government, though funding for the ongoing fight against COVID did get stripped. While the headlines focused largely on the financial aid that will be sent to Ukraine as a result of the deal, there was a secret winner within the 2,700-page bill: the environment.

The Biden administration ran on making climate change a priority, but whenever the president tries to address the matter head-on, he runs into resistance (usually in the form of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, last seen concern-trolling about car batteries). So, Biden and his allies took a different approach this time around, hiding some essential funding for addressing climate change in the earmarks of the latest spending bill.

According to Grist, Democrats were able to tack on little spending projects that could help address climate change at a local level. Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly managed to finagle full funding for a $58 million light-rail project and another $25 million for drought contingency planning in the Colorado River Basin, an essential water source out west. California Rep. Mark Levin managed to snag $9.3 million to shore up coastal bluffs and protect against erosion and flooding, plus another $2.4 million for water desalination. Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto grabbed $2 million for zero-emission buses, $2 million for flood mitigation, and $2 million for climate research.

Add it all up and it barely makes a dent in the bill’s entirety — it accounts for less than 1% of total spending. But while it won’t even register as much more than a rounding error, the money could have significant impacts on the communities that managed to get some of that spending.

Earmarks have been a dirty word in Washington for years, and with good reason: They are often used to do favors for lobbyists and special interest groups, and they can easily be used for nefarious purposes, like when Republican Rep. Duke Cunningham took kickbacks from military contractors while using earmarks to funnel cash and projects to them. But the Earth is a pretty solid special interest to show some love to. Maybe we can save the planet if we can just hide that we’re doing it.