Environmental justice advocates generally agree the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act include positive and important elements, and also represent predictable and familiar disappointments. Advocates for communities of color, low income communities, and those in the path of fossil fuel projects favored by coal millionaire Sen. Joe Manchin — to whom President Biden gave one of the pens with which he signed the legislation — say they have been sacrificed, once again.
“Somehow, we’re both a bargaining chip and the people that can save the day when it comes to elections,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) and deputy director of the Ironbound Community Corp. in Newark, New Jersey. While the administration says the IRA includes approximately $60 billion for environmental justice, analyses from the Just Solutions Collective and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center say the amount actually going to EJ is closer to $47.5 billion and $49 billion, respectively.
More work to do
“[The IRA] is not perfect,” but includes “a lot of good things,” Robert Bullard, a preeminent EJ advocate and member of the WHEJAC, told Politico. “What we have to do is get a commitment that this is not the end of our work on climate justice, and that we have to work better and work more and work harder to ensure that those big gaping holes that are left in this bill are filled with justice.” Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity, agreed. “One of the most dangerous parts about the IRA is if people throw up their hands and say, ‘That’s it, we’re done,’” they said. “Like, ‘We did it. Mission accomplished on climate.’”
Advocates say they will fight hard to oppose a deal to fast-track permitting for energy projects — like the long-delayed and far over-budget Mountain Valley Pipeline — in exchange for passage of the IRA, and will push lawmakers against tying that to “must-pass” government funding bills. (Politico, Bloomberg $; MVP: Mountain State Spotlight; Permitting reform: Reuters; Signing ceremony: Reuters; Commentary: Esquire, Charles Pierce commentary)