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Washington Report – March 2024

Mar 13, 2024 | Blog, Washington Report

Written by: Madison Mayhew, Federal Policy Manager

Washington DC is gearing up for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which is a time of joy and celebration for both residents and visitors alike. 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. Learn more about DC Council History here. 

The Latest on Climate Policy

Budget 

Congress successfully passed the first round of budget bills to avoid a government shutdown in early March. This batch of appropriations bills included the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy-Water, Interior-Environment and Transportation-HUD bills. 

Fortunately, there weren’t any harmful poison pill riders attached to these appropriations bills. However, there was a significant cut to the EPA’s budget, including the Superfund program – the contaminated site management program. Although this is a loss, the same program is receiving new revenue from newly restored taxes on corporate polluters. Factoring in that money, the EPA’s budget would fall by only 4 percent.

The next appropriations deadline is March 22nd and includes the bulk of the budget, the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education measures. There is still a threat of poison pill riders and attacks to environmental programs within this second package. Please keep using our tool to contact your members of Congress to pass a clean budget and protect environmental funding!  

The final budget agreements are coming nearly six months after the start of the fiscal year, and coincides with the rollout of Biden’s budget request that was released this week. 

Farm Bill 

The 2018 Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2023 and was extended for one year through September, 2024. The path forward for the next Farm Bill is still unclear as budget negotiations have continued far past their due date. Legislative text still hasn’t been released, and IPL remains committed to advocating for strong climate smart provisions including: 

  • The Agricultural Resilience Act
  • The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Improvement Act 
  • The CROP for Farming Act 
  • And Protecting the $20 Billion set aside in the Inflation Reduction Act for climate smart agriculture 

All of these bills help address conservation needs in the Farm Bill, and support small and medium scale farmers in implementing regenerative agriculture practices that are beneficial for our food systems and our climate goals. 

John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act 

The Senate recently re-introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

This bill would restore and modernize protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, protect the public’s access to free and fair elections and ensure our democracy works for everyone!

Threats to democracy and to the environment are intertwined. We cannot effectively address the climate crisis, advance environmental justice and protect our Sacred Earth without advocating a strong democracy. 

IPL joined with other environmental partners in applauding the re-introduction in a statement here. 

EPA update on Powerplant Climate Pollution Rule

EPA annouced it has split its new carbon pollution standards for power plants into 2 parts. The original proposed plan contained three parts. The first portion dealt with existing coal plants, the second portion included the existing gas plants, and the third portion included any new gas plants. In April, two of the three pieces of the plan will be finalized. The portion that deals with existing gas will be delayed. This is disappointing however, we expect the existing gas standard to cover a larger portion of gas plants. EPA will start the process of developing standards to clean up existing gas-fired power plants later this year. These will cover carbon pollution, as well as other dangerous pollutants.

Securities and Exchange Commission Climate-Related Risk Disclosure Rule

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finalized a new standard requiring disclosure of information from publicly traded companies about climate-related risks and opportunities. The standard will provide investors with more information in a reliable, consistent, and comparable manner so they can make better-informed investment decisions. Unfortunately, the rule isn’t as strong as originally proposed 2 years ago. The final version removed requirements for companies to reveal greenhouse emissions that stem from the products they sell (Scope 3 emissions). But this decision is a step in the right direction and will help investors and the public. 

Stay tuned for more action opportunities in the coming weeks! 

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