Biden marks Earth Day with new solar energy funds and steps to stand up American Climate Corps

(CNN) President Joe Biden traveled to Triangle, Virginia, Monday to mark Earth Day, unveiling $7 billion in grant funding for solar power under the Inflation Reduction Act and announcing new steps to stand up his administration’s American Climate Corps – a program popular with youth climate groups.

The announcements come days after the Biden administration made several significant conservation announcements, including barring oil drilling on nearly half of the national petroleum reserve in Alaska.

Biden touted his climate and clean energy record against a backdrop of green trees in Virginia. He called the climate crisis an “existential threat” that requires “full and clear action.”

“As president, I’ve seen the devastating toll of climate firsthand,” Biden said, speaking of wildfires, extreme weather and deadly heat. “Despite the overwhelming devastation in red and blue states, there are still those who deny the climate is in crisis. They want to take us backwards. I’m determined – absolutely determined [that] we move forward.”

Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All program, the administration announced funding awards to states territories, tribal governments, municipalities and nonprofits “to develop long-lasting solar programs that are targeted towards the communities and people who need them most,” EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe told reporters during a Friday call.

Per McCabe, the funding will enable nearly one million households in low-income and disadvantaged communities to benefit from solar power, saving more than $350 million in electric costs annually and more than $8 billion over the life of the program for overburdened households.

Biden also announced new action on the federal Climate Corps – a workforce training and service initiative aimed at preparing young Americans for jobs in clean energy and climate resilience. The government will ease Climate Corps members’ transition to other federal jobs after they graduate from the program.

Biden said service programs like the Climate Corps bring “out the best in young people to do what’s best for America.”

“You’ll get paid to fight climate change, learning how to install those solar panels, fight wildfires, rebuild wetlands, weatherize homes, and so much more,” Biden added.

He also announced a new partnership between the administration and TradesFutures, the non-profit arm of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, allowing Climate Corps members to access some of the union’s apprenticeship programs.

He also touted an announcement from three states — Vermont, New Mexico and Illinois — launching their own state-based climate corps. Climate corps programs will employ people doing conservation work, as well as work constructing renewable energy like wind and solar.

Biden and other progressive lawmakers, including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, delivered remarks in Virginia’s Prince William Forest Park, a site developed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, on which the American Climate Corps is modeled.

“In the midst of a depression, President Roosevelt called on the American people to come together, to take on the challenge and unlock the opportunity that sat inside of that– the opportunity to heal, to lift folks up, and to move America forward,” White House National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi said Friday. “President Biden will talk about how the United States, in the face of a climate crisis fully manifest to the American people in communities all across the country, is also an opportunity for us to come together.”

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