While IRA’s tangible solutions help consumers and environmental justice communities, large scale projects need a National Climate Emergency Plan 

August 14, 2023

Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) spoke at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. about the challenges and benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act (I.R.A.), on the law’s anniversary. Below is the recording of the event, which also aired on CSPAN.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier, according to the Department of Defense. A clean energy future is an energy secure future, which will mitigate extreme weather threats,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, former Maine State Representative, Marine combat veteran, President of the Elected Officials to Protect America, and Co-Founder “The I.R.A. is a historic investment in our security, prosperity, and health. Nations look to America for our leadership and it encourages them and industries to adopt clean energy technologies globally.”  

The I.R.A.’s core principle is to accelerate a clean energy transition with incentives rather than penalties. The law directs nearly $370 billion in federal funding to clean energy efforts through a mix of tax incentives, grants, and loan guarantees. 

“In the military we know the climate crisis is a threat multiplier, both for instability around the globe, and for increasing climate-fueled natural disasters here at home. With the I.R.A. America is leading the world in mitigating the threats of climate change,” said Sandra Givens Scott, Georgia State Representative, US Army Veteran (HD-76) “Renewables are by far the cheapest form of power today. Clean renewable energy will make us energy independent, free from volatile fossil fuel prices. It has the power to curb energy cost and enhance market resilience. The I.R. A. has put us on the path towards energy security with a clean energy economy.”

The I.R.A. makes the largest ever American investment in climate, justice, clean energy, jobs, and lowers consumer costs, while supporting critical programs to improve the health and wellbeing of American families. It will help mitigate the devastation caused by fossil fuel greenhouse gasses that have fueled the climate crisis. 

“The Colorado River is in crisis, suffering from chronic overuse and the climate emergency.  Our river basin provides water to 40 million people and more than 3 million acres of crops in nine states in both the U.S. and Mexico. The mega drought has changed the lives of millions and sparked apocalyptic fires,” said Naquetta Ricks Colorado State Representative, (HD-40). “Colorado has set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, has centered environmental justice in our climate policies, and is focusing on a just transition to our clean energy future. But we can’t do it on our own. The I.R.A. is providing critical funding to help our efforts and works in tandem with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help mitigate the climate crisis while building a clean energy economy.”   

In September 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a new division, the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights to institutionalize environmental justice on a par with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The I.R.A has elevated this program with a huge infusion of funding. Now more than 200 staff work on environmental justice issues nationally to allow the EPA to be much more connected on the ground level than ever before. Prior to the Biden administration, funding for environmental justice nationally totaled just $20 million. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law augmented that to $100 million nationally, and then the I.R.A. brought the funding up to $3 billion. I.R.A. funding has to go to community-based organizations.

“The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) emerges as one of the most all-encompassing climate objective policies nationwide. It represents another important step towards achieving our goal of building more sustainable, vibrant communities while ensuring fair and equitable climate protections,” remarked Angelo Santabarbara, New York State Assemblyman. “Significantly, the CLCPA mandates that the advantages of climate actions must also uplift underprivileged communities. Working in tandem with the Inflation Reduction Act (I.R.A.), we can assist these communities that have been historically excluded and marginalized and have long endured substantial exposure to detrimental emissions from industrial pollutants. Now, with Justice40 initiatives within the I.R.A. alongside the CLCPA, New York State is in a position to foster increased equity and improved health outcomes.” 

To help organizations with capacity issues, EPA inaugurated 17 Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers across the nation, to help communities apply for funding from the EPA and other agencies. In addition, the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program will administer $550 million to community-based organizations and universities that will re-grant funds to smaller organizations. The Environmental Justice Government-to-Government Program will disburse $70 million to projects that include everything from monitoring to cleanups and research. 

“The IRA has given us a mandate to obtain funds to be spent in communities that have been underserved and over polluted. Everybody wants and needs clean air, clean water, and clean soil. With I.R.A. funding we finally have the tools to start to make these fundamental rights a reality in communities that have been overlooked for too long just because they have the wrong zip code,” said Joyce Watterman, Council President, Jersey City. “Because of the I.R.A. the company building the Atlantic City wind farm will receive tax credits, which ensures its responsible development. They are already providing training for residents that need new professions. All an applicant needs is a GED to apply. The Wind Institute, fellowship programs and university initiatives all are happening because the I.R.A. ‘s decade-long investment credit creates certainty and stability.”

With IRA funding the government is investing in communities sustainably, by working with the DOE, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Transportation, and others. Most of the funding from the I.R.A. takes the form of tax credits designed to spur corporate investment in clean energy, transport, and manufacturing – generating financing that will enable innovation, help companies scale solutions, and drive down costs across a wide range of decarbonization technologies.

Many of the IRA’s mechanisms are designed to leverage vastly more in private investment, including opportunities for public-private partnerships. Importantly, it also leaves the door open for new technologies as long as they can be proven to reduce emissions.

The I.R.A. has driven record investment in its first year: 
  • Companies have announced enough new U.S. battery manufacturing projects to support production of more than 10 million EVs per year – more vehicles than were manufactured in the U.S. in 2021.
  • The IRA’s expected impact on private investment has increased between 50 percent and 200 percent from initial estimates, based on research from the Brookings Institution and Rhodium Group, with the largest jumps related to hydrogen, carbon capture, and energy storage.

 What might hold back progress is how long it takes to secure environmental and technical permitting approvals for large scale energy projects, and is being debated in Congress. Energy permitting is an important step for any plan that intends to bring new sources of energy to homes and businesses. However, new energy infrastructure, on average, has a 5-year average wait time for projects to get all their necessary approvals and permits.

Recognizing the transmission part of the issue, last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed a rule to establish the Coordinate Interagency Transmission Authorization and Permits Program to accelerate Federal environmental review and permitting processes for qualifying onshore electric transmission facilities. 

“The I.R.A. has created investment and incentives that has the potential to drive a more rapid and efficient decarbonization of the economy while increasing the supply of clean energy and maintaining the country’s competitive edge of stable, low-cost energy,” said Dr. John Polimeni, Schenectady New York Councilmember, Professor Ecological Economics, EOPA Department of Energy Task Force Chair. “In order to maintain the I.R A.’s momentum, lawmakers at the federal and state levels will have to create more efficient permitting for clean energy infrastructure that will also meet environmental standards. We know that with funding from the Defense Production Act our industry can ramp up rapidly. In four years, during World War II, American industrial production doubled in size. While the I.R.A. is the largest federal climate investment in history, it should be considered an initial down payment towards reaching the goal of net zero carbon emissions, and further investment will be necessary to achieve our ultimate climate targets.”  

American industry provided almost two-thirds of all the Allied military equipment produced during the war. 

The DPA provides the executive branch with the authority to expedite and expand the supply of materials and services from the U.S. industrial base needed to promote national defense. Section 30001 of the I.R.A. appropriates $500 million to the DOE to carry out the Defense Production Act. DPA funding from the I.R.A. remains available until September 30, 2024.

The IRA brings much needed incentives to accelerate investments in renewable energy, which is so critically needed. The globe’s average temperatures in 2023 were much higher than normal. The time to act is now.

“Urgent action and collaboration is required to solve this global crisis. On the one year anniversary of the I.R.A. passing, it’s clear to see it working to address energy challenges—the pipeline of renewable energy investments is accelerating significantly for large firms as well as creating a lot of well-paying American jobs,” said Cassandra Campbell, Corporate Strategy Director, ARC Public Benefit Corporation.

Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) has a National Climate Emergency Plan that addresses permitting and promotes using the D.P.A., amongst other issues. Over 1,000 elected officials have signed on to the plan and urge Congress and the President to take action.

 “Arc Public Benefit Corporation (Arc PBC) strongly supports EOPA’s goal to enact a Climate Change Emergency Plan for transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy. Arc PBC has a Plug and Play Energy program making it easier for officials across all levels of public administrations, federal, state and local governments to design, build, finance and operate renewable energy. One of Arc PBC’s immediate priorities is to extend EOPA’s New York and New Jersey clean transportation and networked charging infrastructure initiatives,” said Bryan Wisk, Founder and CEO of Arc PBC.