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Washington Report – July 2023

Jul 13, 2023 | Blog, Washington Report

Written by: Madison Mayhew, IPL Federal Policy Manager

With record high temperatures, devastating floods and destructive wildfires across the globe, the realities of the climate crisis have been front and center this summer. 

Communities of faith continue to lead the moral call to care for climate by urging our elected leaders to address the crisis at hand. Last month, IPL-DMV, VA-IPL and NC-IPL joined with frontline and environmental justice leaders at the White House calling on Biden to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

The Latest on Climate Policy

Budget / Appropriations

Although Congress voted to increase the debt ceiling at the end of May, they still have to vote to approve the federal budget, which expires in September. GOP members continue to attack key climate policies and environmental justice programs through “poison pill” pill policy riders. At least 17 poison pill riders have been proposed that fuel the climate crisis, block clean energy measures and undermine clean water. IPL is keeping a close eye on these negotiations and will identify opportunities for action in the coming weeks!

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act 

RAWA was reintroduced in the House this past March, and continues to grow bipartisan support! Along with Senators Heinrich (D-NM) and Tillis (R-NC) we now have 14 additional names: Collins (ME), Graham (SC), Moran (KS), Boozman (AR), Budd (NC), Wicker (MS), Hyde-Smith (MS), Stabenow (MI), Carper (DE), Rosen (NV), Tester (MT), Brown (D-OH), Sinema (AZ), King (ME). 

A House version is still in the works, but with steady progress, we can see this bill across the finish line this year. 

Permitting Reform 

After the debt ceiling vote in May that gutted key permitting laws like NEPA, lawmakers are still committed to addressing more permitting reforms. IPL joins with clean energy advocates urging Congress to address transmission needs, but not at the expense of frontline or environmental justice communities. 

In order for the U.S. to take advantage of the critical clean energy investments provided in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the pace of clean energy transmission must be rapidly expanded. We can build the transmission infrastructure necessary to accelerate our transition to clean energy, while preserving critical environmental, health and community protections that keep our beloved communities and Sacred Earth safe from harmful pollutants. 

Today, The House Natural Resources Committee will host a hearing on H.R. 4374Energy Opportunities for All Act. This bill nullifies the withdrawal of public lands within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Canyon from oil and gas leasing, upending decades-long efforts from tribes, elected officials, and the public. The oil and gas industry has a long history of pollution, environmental damage, and harm to Indigenous cultural and sacred sites in the greater Chaco region.

In the next several weeks, we’re likely to see additional permitting reform provisions tucked into several pieces of legislation, so it will likely be a moving target through the end of session. IPL will continue to monitor legislation as it develops and identify action opportunities in the coming weeks. 

In some positive news and a HUGE win for environmental justice, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stopped construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline as it considers arguments that Congress violated the separation of powers doctrine in the debt ceiling vote. 

Democracy 

The Freedom to Vote Act will likely be introduced this month! This bill 

will protect the voices of voters, end partisan gerrymandering, counter undemocratic and dangerous election sabotage efforts, and help to eliminate the undue influence of dark money in our elections. The Freedom to Vote Act, which incorporates significant feedback from state and local election officials, will ensure all voices and votes will be heard, counted, and protected. 

On the flip side, Republicans plan to introduce a bill called the ACE Act, which is anti-voter and anti-democracy. Protecting the right to vote and expanding access to voting is essential to protect our democracy and our environment. We cannot have a healthy climate without a healthy democracy. 

MATS comment period end 

The Mercury Air Toxics Standard comment period closed on June 23. IPL joined with Climate Action Campaign at the EPA to celebrate over 90,000 submitted comments! 

The proposed rule would strengthen standards against mercury pollution and other toxic air pollution from power plants. This is a big step in the right direction to protect people from toxic air pollutants like arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals that cause disease and premature death. 

Direct Pay Comment Period

Treasury has released its draft direct pay guidance. This is the mechanism, created by the IRA to allow granting to eligible tax-exempt entities, including places of worship, access to tax credits that were previously only accessible to corporations. Treasury is accepting public comment through August 14th. IPL is developing comments to submit. Please send any feedback/comments (bullet points are fine) to Gianna, our Advocacy Intern at gianna@interfaithpowerandlight.org or schedule one here

Action Opportunities 

Faith leader carbon rule sign on comment letter

IPL is circulating this faith leader carbon rule sign on letter to EPA together with several faith partners. Please invite anyone in your network with a title or leader of a religious organization to add their names by July 12th.

Climate and Energy Resources for Faith Communities: A Briefing with the U.S. Department of Energy

July 18th at 3 pm ET / Noon PT

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) created the largest climate and clean energy investment America has ever made. These bills provide federal funding for energy and climate resiliency improvements that can be used in houses of worship and our homes. This historic legislation provides people of faith and conscience with an opportunity to live our values of caring for one another and for our Sacred Earth. The IRA included clean energy tax credits for wind and solar, EVs, efficiency upgrades, heat pumps, and much more. It also made it easier for nonprofits and houses of worship to access 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 or other eligible technologies on an eligible property. Now, the “direct pay” option means non-taxable entities can also benefit from these credits.

Join us for a briefing with the U.S. Department of Energy to learn more about direct pay, the tax credits, the programs, and the role faith communities can play in helping our country address the climate crisis and ensure that all communities are supported. 

Sign the petition to Congress: Help end hunger, expand food access, and address climate resilience in the 2023 Farm Bill

Far too many people experience hunger in our wealthy nation—including 12 million children  who are food insecure. And around the world, the number of people who are severely hungry has increased by 33 percent. Climate change threatens to increase these numbers–as global temperatures and extreme weather events rise, the conditions make it more difficult for farmers to grow food and for those facing hunger to get it. Our current agricultural system contributes to these joint crises—prioritizing corporations’ profits over people and our planet.

The 2023 Farm Bill is a critical opportunity to improve food security and nutrition for people and promote climate resilience in the U.S. and across the world . As Congress begins working on this important legislation, we must urge them to prioritize the needs of our communities and the climate, not corporate profit margins. 

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