On August 16th, 2022, a milestone was achieved when President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – a $500 billion spending bill that aims to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030. Marked as the largest climate investment in the country’s history, the IRA is packed with environmental justice funds, clean energy incentives, and healthcare cost-reducing measures.
Understanding the importance and complexities and once-in-a-generation opportunities of IRA, WE ACT for Environmental Justice launched the Justice40rward Campaign. This initiative educates communities about funding opportunities from the IRA, spanning sectors from clean energy to housing and pollution control. We’ve taken this campaign on the road, with tours across the nation in places such as Kansas, Michigan, Alaska, Texas, and New York. We’ve also hosted webinars with leaders such as U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dr. Henry McCord with the U.S. Department of Energy, and Senator Markey (D-MA). Through these events, we’ve fostered conversations about accessing the available investments in communities at the forefront of climate impacts and the cumulative impacts of pollution.
According to projections, the IRA, combined with private investments, might add around $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy by 2032. The Environmental Protection Agency projects reduction in U.S. emissions by about 40 percent in the same period, supporting both the environment and the communities.
Yet, the path isn’t without its hurdles. Some of the funding tools in the IRA, like the 45Q and 45V tax credits, are pushing for energy programs that can pose risks to environmental justice communities. There are concerns about how these projects, especially those like carbon capture sequestration (CCS), are vetted and the potential for continued environmental harm through cumulative impacts.
Moreover, there have been concerns about changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a key protector of environmental interests in frontline communities. The recent modifications, part of a larger budgetary move, have weakened its oversight on fossil fuel projects. As a result, low-income communities and communities of color are feeling more vulnerable to these projects with fewer tools for input and oversight.
Though federal agencies promise to bring in regulations to safeguard these communities, trust in their commitments is still questionable.
As we celebrate the significant steps forward, it’s evident that our journey is far from over. We remain committed to championing true environmental justice, ensuring that all investments and policies genuinely support and empower the communities they aim to help.