President Biden just signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law. After decades of advocates, policymakers and activists pushing legislation that matches resources to the true scale of the climate crisis, we are on the road to real climate solutions.
This is a big problem. The Inflation Reduction Act is a huge opportunity to address the climate crisis by making transformative investments in clean energy and the communities most affected by pollution and the climate crisis. It gives us the tools we need to replace our dirty, unsustainable fossil fuel economy with a clean energy future that will improve health, ensure justice, restore the planet, and create new jobs in the process.
While there is much to celebrate, there is also much to lament: the IRA contains provisions that will cause immediate harm and slow our long-term climate progress. The fossil fuel industry convinced its allies in Congress to include poisonous pamphlets and sweetheart deals that threaten to further entrench fossil fuels in our economy, expose frontline communities to even more pollution, and indeed 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 that we both ensure the positive potential of beneficial IRA investments and prevent new subsidies from to fossil fuels harm communities that have already suffered too much at the hands of polluting industries. This means ensuring that federal and state governments implement IRA investments in an equitable and fair manner while fighting any efforts to expand or prolong our use of fossil fuels. It also means strongly opposing efforts to weaken core environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that protect communities.
So for Earthjustice, the work is just beginning. Here’s what we’ll do:
- Let’s 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. The fossil fuel dinosaurs have spent decades creating barriers to entry into renewables: taxes, regulations and sweetheart deals that shield them from real financial competition with the renewables industry. Because? Because when they are on equal terms, renewables win. Earthjustice and our partners will continue to attack these barriers in court and before state and federal energy regulators so we can break the power of fossil industries and get communities the clean energy they deserve.
- We will fight for a fair and equitable energy transition that leaves no community behind. 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 affected communities of color and low-income communities. These funds will help clean up Superfund sites, improve air monitoring capacity, reduce emissions at ports, and invest directly in community-led initiatives through Global Environmental and Climate Justice grants. Earthjustice will help its partners secure this funding so they can address longstanding environmental harms and make positive changes in their communities.
- We will fight like hell against subsidies and tax credits for fossil fuel infrastructure, including offshore drilling giveaways. Earthjustice will redouble its efforts to support community partners who are in the spotlight as fossil industries try to expand their footprint while they still can. The IRA is holding offshore wind development 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 lower gas prices, but it will increase our emissions and cause more damage to communities, including Gulf communities that depend on clean coastal waters for their livelihoods and way of life . Earthjustice has represented these communities to demonstrate, time and time again, that offshore drilling violates our environmental laws, and we won’t stop. Gulf communities deserve a just transition to good-paying jobs and a strong economy, not more fossil fuel projects that will prolong air and water pollution.
- We will speak truth to power about what it takes to truly end our addiction to fossil fuels. We will speak truth to power about what it takes to truly end our addiction to fossil fuels. The IRA provides support for technologies, such as carbon capture and blue hydrogen, that continue reliance on fossil fuels and shift focus away from real climate solutions such as renewables and electrification. Earthjustice will partner with these communities to challenge any proposals that threaten their future.
- Let’s fight back against attempts to weaken fundamental environmental laws like NEPA. Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have reportedly promised a “side deal” aimed at reducing permitting processes by lessening NEPA’s requirements to engage directly with people and communities affected by projects . While we need to build more clean energy infrastructure—quickly—real permitting reform requires investments in outreach and engagement with communities, not shortcuts. We will urge congressional leaders to vote against any side deals that undermine public engagement, while advocating for real solutions that center community voices, like the Environmental Justice for All Act.
- We will demand that the Biden administration use the full power of the federal government to protect community health and combat climate change. Investments in the IRA are transformative, but to meet our emissions reduction targets and protect overburdened communities, we need a whole-of-government approach. This requires President Biden to implement a set of strong executive actions that will help us achieve greater emissions reductions and help the communities most affected by our continued reliance on fossil fuels.
Investments in the Inflation Reduction Act give us an opportunity to do what the fossil fuel industry never did. We can build the clean energy infrastructure of the future while installing guardrails to protect the places and communities most affected by development. We can work to ensure that the Biden administration implements the climate provisions of this new law in the most impactful and fair way possible, while fighting fervently against every bad provision that endangers lives, livelihoods, and health of frontline communities. For the sake of our future, we cannot afford to wait.