Remarks by Vice President Harris at a Clean Transit Event
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
11:49 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, Marc, for that incredible introduction but also for your incredible dedication to public service. The people of Washington, D.C. and our nation thank you for your dedication.
Well, good morning, everyone. Good morning. Today, we are joined by many leaders dedicated — who have always been dedicated — I know; I know you all — to improving the health and the wellbeing of all our communities.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, thank you for your leadership. Administrator of our Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan, thank you for your leadership. These two guys joined me yesterday. We were in Selma talking about the connection between these issues and what it means to fight for social justice and equality.
Administrator of our Federal Transit Administration, Nuria Fernandez, thank you for your leadership.
And to the members of Congress who are here: I see you when you are walking the halls of our Capitol, when you are there where the cameras are on and where the cameras are off. And you’re always fighting for these issues and for the people of our nation. So I want to thank you all for being here this morning.
And to our labor leaders and our community leaders, our environmental leaders: Thank you all. Because this truly is about a group effort.
So, it is a special pleasure, and particularly to be together this week: the one-year anniversary of the passage of the American Rescue Plan. And thank you, of course, to Gene Sperling, our American Rescue Plan Coordinator, and Mitch Landrieu, our administration’s Infrastructure Coordinator, who have done so much on behalf of our nation to make what we did in the halls of Congress hit the streets of America. And that’s what it’s all about.
So I’ll begin with a short story. When I was attorney general of California, I heard about a town called Mira Loma. And this town had some of the worst air pollution in the state. And I’d been hearing stories about the grandmothers and the grandfathers in particular, asking, shouting, pleading: “Will someone pay attention to what is happening in our community?” They were demanding action.
And this is a town of folks who work hard. They work hard. They are growing their families. It was a town where a lot of the folks were monolingual Spanish speaking, but were so dedicated — and were so dedicated to their community.
So, I went there. I went to go visit with them and to listen to them and to stand with them. And Mira Loma is a community not unlike communities around our nation — hardworking folks working hard jobs, just expecting, asking, righteously requiring that they be seen, that they be heard, and that their needs be taken seriously, and folks who are living in neighborhoods and communities across our country where they are in close proximity to large shipping warehouses or major highways.
In Mira Loma, every day, heavy-duty trucks made more than 15,000 trips to that town’s main roads, bringing with them, of course, soot and exhaust. And the air turned toxic.
The first time I went to Mira Loma, you could taste the metal in the air. My eyes burned. The toxicity in the air was that thick.
And studies, in fact, had shown — university studies had shown that children from Mira Loma were suffering from some of the poorest lung development of any communities in our state. People there told me that family members, relatives, friends were suffering from high rates of cancer, asthma, and heart disease.
And again, the fact is there are many Mira Lomas all over our country, communities that have been left out and left behind, and where pollution from heavy-duty trucks and buses has made the air poisonous to breathe.
And this pollution is also, of course, accelerating the climate crisis, threatening the future not just of our communities but of the entire world. And this is not how it has to be.
Imagine a future: The freight trucks that deliver bread and milk to our grocery store shelves and the buses that take children to school and parents to work; imagine all the heavy-duty vehicles that keep our supply lines strong and allow our economy to grow — imagine that they produced zero emissions.
Well, you all imagined it. That’s why we’re here today — because we have the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been, and then to make the possible actually happen.
So, today, I am proud to announce that our administration is taking steps to build that better future by transforming our nation’s fleet of buses and trucks. And that transformation will begin with public buses.
This year, our Department of Transportation will make available nearly $1.5 billion — yes, Administrator Regan, with a “B” — (laughter) — in grants to help cities and towns electrify their fleet of public buses, build infrastructure to support their fleet, and train workers to run it.
These grants will make public transit more reliable and more affordable, which, of course, means shorter waits and more reliable commutes for folks who need to take public transit to get where they need to go.
These buses will be built in America. And these grants will also be used to train drivers and mechanics to operate, maintain, and repair this new technology. This investment will create good jobs — jobs of the future.
And we are not stopping there. Through our Department of Transportation, today we are also allocating $2.2 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan — thank you, Congress — to 35 transit agencies spread across 18 states. This funding will help communities employ more transit workers and keep transit services running.
In addition, as Administrator Regan shared, today our EPA is issuing a proposed rule that will significantly — significantly reduce dangerous emissions from all new heavy-duty trucks and buses.
And again, as the Administrator shared, we are also announcing funding for, yes, one of my favorite topics: electric school buses. Today’s $17 million in grants will complement the $5 billion for clean school buses that we secured — thank you again — in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Our transportation sector has reached a turning point. We are all in the midst of a turning point. We have the technology to transition to a zero-emission fleet. Our administration — together, all of us — is working to make that possibility a reality.
We can clean our air and protect the health of our children. We can connect all of our communities with affordable, accessible, and reliable public transportation. We can address the climate crisis and grow our economy at the same time.
And I am here today to say: Together, we all are doing just that. With the help of the American people, we are building a better future for all who call our dear country home.
Thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 11:58 A.M. EST