Washington Report – March 2023

Mar 8, 2023 | Blog, Washington Report

By: Madison Mayhew, Federal Policy Advocate

Greetings from DC! The city is gearing up for the annual cherry blossom festival, which is a time of joy and celebration for both residents and visitors alike. The turn to Spring also marks a continued fight for DC statehood and autonomy. Did you know the beloved cherry blossom trees along the Tidal Basin are older than the DC council?  The Cherry Blossoms were given as a gift by the Mayor of Tokyo in 1912, and the DC Council was established over 60 years later. 

The DC legislative branch was established by Congress in the “District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973.” This legislation, often referred to as “Home Rule” provided an elected mayor and 13 member council, allowing Washingtonians to have agency in governing their own affairs. 

However, there are provisions in the legislation that gives Congress the power to overturn local laws and exercise greater oversight than any state in the US. Once a piece of legislation is passed by the DC Council, the bill must sit in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate for 30 days. During this period of waiting, either chamber can submit legislation to oppose the DC Council bill. Although this is very uncommon, DC autonomy is at more risk now than ever as Congress debates two bills passed by the DC Council last legislative session. 

In this fight for Washingtonians to maintain agency in self governance, we lack representation in Congress to fight for us, creating a situation where we don’t have complete control over our local government nor voting representation in the body with complete control. 

It’s important to note that Washington DC is a historically and predominantly Black city, more than half of our 700,000 residents are Black or Latinx, and the majority do not work for the federal government. Lack of statehood and representation is a racial justice and equity issue. As people of faith who care about the dignity and worth of all people, we must protect the voices of all of our neighbors in our democracy. 

The Latest on Climate Policy

Permitting reform 

House Republicans are moving fast with a series of energy bills attacking NEPA, expanding offshore drilling and weakening public input on projects. This is a huge climate attack that has been brewing since the 2022 midterms. The package of bills will be voted on by the House Natural Resources Committee and Energy and Commerce committees, and will likely move quickly to the floor, presumably by the end of March.

Today, The House Natural Resources Committee will mark up H.R. 1335, the Transparency, Accountability, Permitting, and Production (TAPP) of American Resources Act, a piece of legislation that encompasses three bills that would significantly weaken National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) protections for communities by fast tracking environmental reviews and tipping the scales away from a robust public input process. This bill is a part of the House GOP’s continued attack on government accountability, meaningful public input, and review under NEPA.

The three bills included in H.R. 1335 are:

  • the Permitting for Mine Needs (PERMIT-MN) Act, a piece of legislation led by Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stauber (R-MN) that would fast track toxic mining on public lands, arbitrarily shorten NEPA public review timelines, and override a century of legal precedent
  • the TAP American Energy Act, authored by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR), which would lock in decades of fossil fuel infrastructure, lock away millions more acres of public lands, and handcuff the Biden Administration’s ability to address the climate crisis through thoughtful management of our shared lands and waters; and
  • the Building U.S. Infrastructure through Limited Delays & Efficient Reviews (BUILDER) Act, a piece of legislation led by Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA) that would have sweeping implications for the future of NEPA. 

Need some help getting up to speed on the permitting fight and the attacks on NEPA? Below are some resources from our friends in Rep. Grijalva’s office on the House Natural Resources Committee: 

  • Fact Sheet on NEPA
  • This video touches on Manchin’s permitting bill, but there’s a lot of overlap with Republican permitting bills in terms of problems discussed

We know we need to transition to a renewable energy-dependent society, and we must ensure all projects follow a democratic process. This can be done by ensuring communities are involved in all levels of the project process, that proper environmental studie are performed, and that cumulative impacts for communities are taken into consideration. IPL is continuing to watch these developments and will share opportunities to take action as soon as possible. 

Farm Bill 

The current Farm Bill is set to expire in September of 2023, and Members of Congress are starting to release their priorities through marker bills, which help signal policy ideas and gather support for those ideas, most often with a goal of inclusion in an omnibus bill like the farm bill. Marker bills help build support for particular policy priorities and goals. Two marker bills that were recently introduced: 

  • The OFF Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Mike Lee which reforms abusive checkoff programs that work against farmers and rancher’s best interests. 
  • The Meat Packing Special Investigator Act, re-introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Tester, which would help fight consolidation and strengthen antitrust laws by establishing an office within the USDA to ensure the Packers and Stockyards Act is being enforced. 

A third marker bill we’re keeping an eye on is the Agriculture and Resiliency Act. The ARA is sponsored by Representative Pingree and Senator Heinrich, and is a farmer-focused, research-driven path to reduce agricultural emissions.The bill establishes a set of aggressive but realistic goals for farmers to help mitigate climate change and increase agricultural resilience, starting with the overarching goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. agriculture by no later than 2040. The ARA covers agricultural research, soil health, farmland preservation and viability, pasture-based livestock, on-farm renewable energy, and food waste. 

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act 

According to our partners, RAWA is likely to be re-introduced later this month which is great news after its defeat last Congress. RAWA continues to have strong bipartisan support and IPL will be identifying opportunities to engage in the coming weeks. 

IRA/IIJA Funding Resources for Faith Communities

IPL is continueing to track IRA and IIJA program development and put together materials for sharing the information with faith communities. 

Federal agencies are wrapping up rulemaking processes for how the IRA/IIJA programs will be administered in the next couple of months. Many timelines have been pushed back. The DOE Energy Efficiency Material Pilot Program for Nonprofits is now exected to begin accepting applications in May. This spreadsheet will have the most current information.

Please continue to share any concerns around barriers or challenges in accessing these federal programs for faith communities that you surface  with Tiffany (tiffany@interfaithpowerandlight.org). She’s tracking feedback to provide in agency rulemaking processes.

If you missed the recent webinar on planning the energy future of your congregation, you can watch the the recording here.

Action opportunities

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.

Changing the Conversation on EVs Webinar

Are you interested in buying an electric vehicle but concerned about the current narrative surrounding EVs? Join us for a webinar featuring a leader in electric vehicle consumer advocacy, Vanessa Warheit of Plug In America! Topics will include how to combat EV misinformation, bust EV common myths, and change the conversation about electric vehicles across the country. Stay tuned for a signup link!

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