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Washington Report – October 2022

Oct 5, 2022 | Blog, Washington Report

By: Madison Mayhew, IPL Federal Policy Associate

After a very hot summer in DC, autumn’s cooler temperatures have been a lovely change. With the seasonal transition came the end of the federal fiscal year, and the beginning of the fight to stop Sen. Manchin’s “dirty deal” from passing. As a refresher, in order to get the Inflation Reduction Act passed, Sen. Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Sen. Manchin came to an agreement on a “dirty permitting reform deal” that would be attached to must-pass budget legislation, also known as a CR (Continuing Resolution). Check out the August Washington Report for more background. 

Thanks to your faithful advocacy and outreach efforts, the dirty deal was removed from the CR! This was a huge win for frontline and environmental justice communities. Click here for sample language to send a thank you to your Members of Congress. 

However, we know Sen. Manchin is not giving up on his dirty permitting reform dream. According to staff at the House Natural Resources Committee, there will likely be another attempt at attaching the dirty deal to additional must-pass legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) or a larger funding bill known as an Omnibus bill. We will continue to track updates with our partners and will identify action steps to make sure the dangerous dirty deal is killed for good. 

Electoral Count Reform Act 

Following the insurrection of 2021 and the resulting January 6th hearings, there has been new energy around updating the Electoral Count Act, an antiquated Constitutional law governing how electoral votes are counted after a Presidential election. The Electoral Count Reform Act would help protect against another attack on the presidential election. 

In September the House passed a version of the ECRA called the Presidential Elections Reform Act. Now, the Senate is on track to pass its own version of the ECRA after the committee on Rules and Administration held a bipartisan vote in favor of a revised bill. 

The bipartisan Senate bill would do the following: 

  • Clarify that the vice president has only a ministerial role in counting the electoral votes.
  • Close the loophole that allows state legislatures to declare a “failed” election and potentially overrule the decision of the voters.
  • Ensure an expedited judicial process to resolve disputes about the validity of electoral votes.
  • Ensure that courts could review whether a governor has appropriately certified a state’s electors.
  • Provide for a more expedited judicial review process.
  • Make clear that nothing in the bill impedes the important role of state courts in ensuring fair elections.

Although these updates are vital to protecting our democracy, the ECRA is not a solution for much-needed voter protections and reforms, like the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

For up-to-date information about the ECRA, Protect Democracy has a great resource here. 

Implementation of the IRA – hooray for Direct Pay!

With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, non-profits and houses of worship now have easier access to clean energy funds and tax credits through a program called “direct pay.” 

Before the IRA, only homeowners and commercial entities with some tax liability could claim tax credits when installing solar panels, wind turbines, or other eligible technologies on an eligible property. Now, the “direct pay” option means non-taxable entities can also benefit from these credits. Unfortunately, the credits are also available for harmful and false solutions such as, nuclear power production, carbon dioxide sequestration, and hydrogen production.

Additionally, the clean energy tax credit will remain at 30% for ten years! This boost and extension of time will allow more faith communities to access and transition to clean energy for years to come. For a more in-depth look at direct pay and clean energy credits available, check out this helpful guide from EESI

Stay tuned for more information on IRA benefits for houses of worship. 

Check out this fun tool from Rewiring America to see how much individual households can save with funding from the IRA! 

SCOTUS 

The Supreme Court is officially in session with a new judge on the bench – Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson! We celebrate her historic appointment as the first black woman appointed to the job. 

We’re keeping an eye on two SCOTUS cases: Merrill v. Milligan and Sackett v. EPA 

Merrill v. Milligan Overview

  • After the 2020 census, Alabama created a redistricting plan for its seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. One of the districts in the plan is a majority-Black district. 
  • Registered voters and several organizations challenged the map, arguing that the state had illegally packed Black voters into a single district while dividing other clusters of Black voters across multiple districts. 
  • The challengers alleged that the map effectively minimizes the number of districts in which Black voters can elect their chosen candidates, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans racial discrimination in voting policies.

Why it matters: An extreme ruling by the conservative majority in this case will dismantle the last remaining pillar of the Voting Rights Act and potentially give states broad authority to draw legislative maps that favor white voters at the expense of racial minorities. Click here for more background.

Sackett v. EPA Overview

  • Chantell and Michael Sackett want to build a house near Idaho’s Priest Lake, but EPA regulations are making that difficult.
  • This case is a fossil fuel- and industry-backed effort to gut the Clean Water Act by narrowing the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). 
  • The Sacketts want the Court to rule that the Clean Water Act only protects wetlands that are physically indistinguishable from navigable water bodies.
  •  If they win, the court could restrict EPA’s ability to protect wetlands, which act as carbon sinks, absorbing CO2 and filtering out chemicals, human waste, and other pollutants. 

Why it matters: A negative decision could open millions of acres of wetlands and millions of miles of streams – all currently protected by the Clean Water Act – to pollution and destruction. The case also presents another opportunity for the court to handcuff agencies in a manner that could ripple far beyond environmental law. Click here for more background.

It’s been a long and busy year, and it’s not over just yet. May we celebrate our victories and keep pushing forward. IPL will keep you posted on advocacy opportunities and how you can stay involved! Onward together. 

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