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The Inflation Reduction Act is the Biggest Climate Investment in History. The Fight Doesn’t Stop Here.

August 19, 2022
By
Sambhav Sankar Senior Vice President of Programs

We must work to secure the positive potential of the IRA’s investments and prevent new fossil fuel subsidies from harming communities that have already suffered too much.

President Biden just signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law. After decades of advocates, policymakers, and activists pushing for legislation that matches resources with the true scale of the climate crisis, we are on a path to real climate solutions.

This is a big deal. The Inflation Reduction Act is an enormous opportunity to confront the climate crisis by making transformative investments in clean energy and the communities most impacted by pollution and the climate crisis. It gives us the tools we need to replace our dirty and unsustainable fossil fuel economy with a clean energy future that will improve health, secure justice, restore the planet, and generate new jobs in the process.

While there is much to celebrate, there is much to mourn as well: The IRA contains provisions that will inflict immediate harm and slow our long-term climate progress. The fossil fuel industry convinced their allies in Congress to include poisonous handouts and sweetheart deals that threaten to further entrench fossil fuels into our economy, expose frontline communities to even more pollution, and actually delay climate progress.

As an organization that uses the power of the law to advance justice for people and our planet, it is our responsibility to ensure both that we secure the positive potential of the IRA’s beneficial investments and that we prevent new fossil fuel subsidies from harming communities that have already suffered too much at the hands of polluting industries. This means ensuring that the federal and state governments implement IRA investments in an equitable and just way while fighting any effort to expand or prolong our use of fossil fuels. It also means vigorously opposing efforts to weaken bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that protect communities.

That’s why, for Earthjustice, the work is just beginning. Here’s what we’re going to do:

  • We’re going to level the playing field for renewables. The IRA provides transformative investments in clean energy, but it will take more than that to transform our economy. Fossil fuel dinosaurs have spent decades creating barriers to entry for renewables: taxes, rules, and sweetheart deals that protect them from real financial competition with the renewables industry. Why? Because when they meet on a level playing field, renewables win. Earthjustice and our partners will continue to attack these barriers in court and before state and federal energy regulators so that we can break the power of fossil industries and get communities the clean power they deserve.
  • We’re going to fight for a just and equitable energy transition that leaves no community behind. The IRA commits $60 billion to support communities on the front lines of pollution and climate change. For too long, pollution and climate change have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities. These funds will help clean up Superfund sites, improve air monitoring capacity, reduce emissions at ports, and directly invest in community-led initiatives through Environmental and Climate Justice block grants. Earthjustice will help its partners secure this funding so that they can address longstanding environmental harms and make positive change in their communities.
  • We’re going to fight like hell against handouts and tax credits for fossil fuel infrastructure — including offshore drilling giveaways. Earthjustice will redouble its efforts to support community partners that are in the crosshairs as fossil industries try to expand their footprint while they still can. The IRA holds development of offshore wind energy hostage to expanded onshore oil and gas leasing as well as offshore oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Drilling for more oil won’t drive down gas prices, but it will increase our emissions and inflict further harm on communities — including Gulf communities that depend on clean offshore waters for their livelihood and way of life. Earthjustice has represented those communities to prove, time and again, that offshore drilling violates our environmental laws, and we won’t stop. Communities in the Gulf deserve a just transition to good-paying jobs and a strong economy, not more fossil fuel projects that will prolong pollution of their air and water.
  • We’re going to speak truth to power about what it takes to truly end our fossil fuel addiction. We’re going to speak truth to power about what it takes to truly end our fossil fuel addiction. The IRA provides support for technologies — like carbon capture and blue hydrogen — that continue fossil fuel dependency and shift the focus from true climate solutions like renewables and electrification. Earthjustice will partner with those communities to challenge any proposal that threatens their future.
  • We’re going to fight attempts to weaken bedrock environmental laws like NEPA. Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Schumer, and Speaker Pelosi have reportedly promised a “side deal” aimed at shortcutting permitting processes by watering down NEPA requirements to directly engage with the people and communities impacted by projects. While we need to build more clean energy infrastructure — fast — real permitting reform requires investments in outreach and engagement with communities, not shortcuts. We will urge congressional leaders to vote against any permitting side deal that undermines public engagement while advocating for real solutions that center community voices like the Environmental Justice for All Act.
  • We’re going to demand that the Biden administration harness all the power of the federal government to protect community health and combat climate change. The investments in the IRA are transformative, but in order to reach our emissions reduction targets and protect overburdened communities, we need a whole-of-government approach. This requires President Biden to implement a suite of strong executive actions that will help us achieve greater emissions reductions and help those communities most impacted by our continued reliance on fossil fuels.

The investments in the Inflation Reduction Act give us the opportunity to do what the fossil fuels industry never did. We can build out the clean energy infrastructure of the future while also installing guardrails to protect the places and communities most impacted by development. We can work to ensure that the Biden administration implements the climate provisions of this new law in the most impactful, just way possible while fervently fighting every bad provision that endangers the lives, livelihoods, and health of frontline communities. For the sake of our future, we can’t afford to wait.

Workers install solar panels on a parking structure at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Workers install solar panels on a parking structure at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL