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WI Officials See Opportunities Under Biden Climate Plans

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On the heels of last week's global climate summit, elected officials in Wisconsin are looking to see how a changing federal tone can help the state. They say their areas can play a role, too.

President Joe Biden is pledging to cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2030. The administration also stresses a boost in clean-energy jobs as part of the effort.

Nathan Fiene, village trustee in Weston in north-central Wisconsin, said the economy and climate issues are interlinked.

"A lot of our manufacturing and agricultural industry that has sustained our state for so long is changing," Fiene observed.

He pointed to plants linked to air pollution that are closing and taking jobs with them. He is also concerned about factory farms not embracing sustainable agriculture.

Fiene believes Biden's push for a new version of the Civilian Conservation Corps could put people back to work while making his area more climate resilient. Senate Republicans say states dependent on oil production will suffer under Biden's approach, while objecting to tax increases on corporations to pay for plans laid out in the proposed infrastructure package.

But local leaders such as Fiene argue an aggressive approach is needed after experiencing the previous administration's resistance to climate policy.

Rep. Francesca Hong, D-Madison, likes that Biden's American Jobs Plan aims to make low-income homes more energy efficient, with the possibility of other benefits.

"I'm really hoping this plan expands to small businesses," Hong remarked. "Particularly restaurants that are owned by communities of color as well, so that their energy bills both in their livelihoods and in their homes can continue to go down."

Her district has marginalized communities that are dealing issues such as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in local water.

But she's encouraged by proposed state legislation such as the CLEAR Act, which would address these "forever chemicals."

Meanwhile, the Biden administration said the state could see economic growth with emerging technology such as carbon capture.

Both the White House and trade groups reported Wisconsin had roughly 75,000 clean-energy jobs before the pandemic put some of those workers on unemployment.

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