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Washington Report – February 2023

Feb 2, 2023 | Blog, Washington Report

Written By: Madison Mayhew, IPL Federal Policy Advocate

After a tumultuous start to the 118th session, Congress continues to settle in by assigning both House members and Senators to their committees and hiring new staff. President Biden will be addressing both chambers in the State of the Union next week on February 7th around 9PM ET with an expected focus on the debt ceiling, economic growth and the war in Ukraine. Last year, President Biden failed to make climate a top priority of his address. With the historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden has a big opportunity to highlight new funding available to support the transition to clean energy for individuals, households and nonprofits, and call for more support for environmental justice. IPL will be live tweeting the address with other faith and climate partners. Follow along here

The Latest on Climate Policy

Legislation

Permitting reform

With the new Republican majority, and Manchin’s failed dirty deal attempt, we know there is going to be a strong push to pass extreme permitting reform, placing vulnerable and frontline communities in harm’s way. Any permitting reform must be done with environmental justice at the core. Now is the time to uplift stories from your community. Stay tuned for opportunities to engage. 

H.R. 21

The House passed H.R. 21, the “Strategic Production Response Act,” on Friday morning by a 221-205 vote. The bill would require the Department of Energy to develop a plan to increase the percentage of federal lands leased for oil and gas production so it matches the percentage of oil drawn out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in any future releases. No Republican voted against the bill, and only one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, voted for it. This bill is too extreme for it to pass the Senate, but clearly demonstrates the priorities of the GOP controlled House.  

Farm Bill 

It is expected that the 118th Congress will extend the current iteration of the Farm Bill for one more year, and will negotiate a new Farm Bill in 2024. House Dems had a number of hearings last year and took recommendations, but Republicans are going to host their own hearings and start from scratch. Senate Dems are just starting to put recommendations to paper and are beginning to hold their own hearings in the Agriculture Committee. IPL is a co-sponsor for Farm Action’s Food Not Feed Summit, which is both virtual and in person. Register here! 

Administrative Actions 

EPA Proposed Soot Pollution Rule

Soot is a dangerous and deadly pollutant that is produced by power plants, tailpipes on cars and trucks, and other industrial sources, and threatens our health and environment – posing particular risks for children, seniors and people with chronic illnesses.  

EPA is required to update the soot (fine particulate) pollution standard every 5 years. It hasn’t been updated since 2012, and last month EPA proposed an update. The proposed update is an important step forward, but it is still woefully inadequate at protecting the most vulnerable among us from deadly air pollution. A stronger rule will also help reduce climate pollution as most of the sources of soot pollution come from burning fossil fuels. 

EPA can still strengthen the final rule they issue, which is why it’s important for them to hear loud and clear from the faith community that EPA must use this moral opportunity to ensure that all have clean and healthy air to breathe.

EPA has announced virtual public hearings on Feb. 21st and 22nd. Sign up to testify here (and also add their name here – for IPL’s tracking purposes). IPL has created this soot rule hearing toolkit to help you prepare your comments. 

This rule could result in significant health improvements, and it’s important to get the stories of how people, families, and communities are impacted by soot pollution into EPA’s record — more important than sharing technical details and talking points that will be covered by air quality experts. If there are people in your community who have a story that EPA should hear, please encourage them to testify and/or submit a comment.

Check out IPL’s soot rule factsheet to learn more about the rule. You can also view the impacts by state here and here. Additional IPL soot materials are here.

Action opportunities

Submit your comment to EPA for a strong soot rule

Soot is a dangerous and deadly pollutant that is produced by power plants, tailpipes on cars and trucks, and other industrial sources. An updated standard for soot pollution could save thousands of lives. Submit your comment to the EPA urging them to issue a strong, science-based standard that protects health and advances environmental justice. And share this with your faith community.

Faith Leaders: Add your name to this comment letter to EPA for a strong soot rule

We have a responsibility as people of faith and conscience to do all we can to ensure that everyone has clean and healthy air to breathe and to leave a safe and thriving world for future generations. Join us in calling on EPA to implement the strongest soot pollution limits possible to protect our communities and our neighbors. We will submit this comment letter from faith leaders to EPA’s comment docket and deliver it to EPA in March. Please also share this with other faith leaders in your network and invite them to join you in signing. The deadline to sign is March 8th.

Webinar: Planning the Energy Future of your Congregation

Learn about the importance of benchmarking your facilities’ energy use to shape your congregation’s plan to cut energy costs and care for our sacred Earth. This is the first step to making a plan to take advantage of federal funding, like the Inflation Reduction Act. Presenters include Jerry Lawson, National Manager of EPA’s Energy Star for Small Businesses and Congregations; Sarah Paulos, Interfaith Power & Light’s Cool Congregations Program Director and Tom Hackley from People’s Church of Kalamazoo, MI. This webinar is part of a series on federal resources for faith communities. You can watch the first webinar, “Federal Funding for Energy Work at Houses of Worship” and review relevant resources on Interfaith Power & Light’s resource page.

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