By: Madison Mayhew, IPL Federal Policy Associate
We’re coming to the tail end of the summer, which means the federal government’s fiscal year is also coming to an end. Congress is currently in recess and set to return the first week of September, and will likely start a busy legislative session to get the government funded and pass additional priorities. Buckle up for an end of August wrap up! We’ve got a lot to cover.
As many of you know, this congressional calendar has been quite a whirlwind! At the beginning of the year, we were strategizing how to get Build Back Better passed following the passage of the Infrastructure bill. After months of negotiations with Sen. Manchin, it looked like our hope for any significant climate legislation was lost after he released a statement saying Build Back Better was dead. However, nearly two weeks later, Leader Schumer announced that he had come to an agreement with Sen. Manchin on a climate deal. These negotiations happened behind closed doors, and most folks on Capitol Hill, Senators, staffers and advocates alike, were genuinely surprised by the outcome. This deal became the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is an extensive bill aiming to address the climate crisis, reduce healthcare costs, and promote accountability and fairness in the U.S. tax code. With approximately $370 billion in energy and climate investments, this is the single biggest U.S. investment aimed at tackling climate change. It includes:
- Clean energy tax credits for wind and solar, electric vehicles, efficiency upgrades, and heat pumps
- More than $60 billion for environmental justice priorities
- Up to $60 billion for domestic clean energy manufacturing
- $27 billion to speed the development of emissions reductions technologies, especially in disadvantaged communities
- A fee on methane pollution from oil and gas facilities and infrastructure, starting at $900 per ton
The IRA was signed by President Biden on August 16, 2022 and is now law! The IRA will cut greenhouse gas emissions more than 40% by 2030, putting us on a pathway to zero emissions by 2050 –what scientists tell us is needed to avoid the most harmful impacts of the climate crisis. Many congrats to our faithful advocates across the network who have all played a crucial role in getting this bill passed.
Unfortunately, during negotiations, troubling provisions were added that include false solutions like carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, nuclear, and expanding leasing opportunities that would disproportionately harm frontline and historically disenfranchised communities. We have a moral obligation to advocate for climate justice and IPL will redouble our efforts to secure benefits, not burdens, for frontline communities in this energy transition.
As a reminder, the IRA is a type of legislation known as a reconciliation bill, which is a specific type of budget bill that allows the Senate to vote with a simple majority and avoid the filibuster. Reconciliation bills have specific requirements for what language and policy can be included in the legislation. Because of these specific requirements, and because of the urgency to get the IRA across the finish line, Senators Manchin and Schumer agreed to a permitting reform package separate from the bill that would be tied to must-pass legislation in September (the federal government’s FY23 funding bill).
This “side deal” would make drastic changes to environmental permitting processes and would put many frontline communities in harm’s way while increasing and fast-tracking fossil fuel project development. No one has seen the official legislation yet, but this one-page summary of the deal that was leaked guts bedrock environmental protections, endangers public health, fast-tracks fossil fuels development, and pushes approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Rep. Grijlava wrote a great op-ed in Newsweek about the permitting deal here.
As mentioned earlier, the federal government’s fiscal year ends at the end of September. Sen. Manchin’s goal is to include the side permitting deal with the FY23 bill. If the permitting deal does get included with the FY23 budget bill, a “no vote” on the package would lead to a government shutdown. One strategy to prevent this from happening is to push the Senate to decouple the permitting deal from the budget bill. Decoupling the permitting deal would allow space to urge Members to vote “NO” on the permitting deal, without the threat of shutting down the government. Senator Schumer and Pelosi were explicit in saying they only promised a vote on the permitting deal, and not that they will make sure it passes. As people of faith, we have a moral obligation to stand with our neighbors on the frontlines, and we must do all we can to stop this harmful side deal.
In September, we will likely see movement on the Electoral Count Act, which would address how congress counts electoral votes after an election, and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would provide historical levels of funding to protect wildlife on the verge of extinction. It will likely be a busy month before the midterm elections.
Deep gratitude for all the IPL affiliates raising up the faith voice on these important issues! Check back here for updates as we keep moving forward together.