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A Brief Analysis of the Inflation Reduction Bill (2022)

This graphic summarize the allocated spending categories included in the Inflation Reduction Act. Each $1 is equal to about 1 billion dollars.

Photo credit: Council of State Governments

By Hunter Marion.

On August 16th, 2022, President Biden signed into law the largest, most comprehensive environmental bill in our country’s history, the Inflation Reduction Act (2022). It might even be more impactful than the milestone environmental legislation passed during the 1970s.

The IRA is a massive bill, encompassing a mind-boggling list of new laws ranging from prescription drug regulation to rejuvenating the IRS to environmental justice to agricultural carbon sequestration to the Justice40 Initiative. It is packed with new policies, tax credits, and grants determined to simultaneously reduce future economic downturn and bolster the United States as the world’s frontrunner in green technology and environmentalism. As exciting and momentous an achievement as this is within the environmental movement, it is not immune to criticism.

Without a doubt, the IRA is full of marvelous carrots designed to incentivize compliance. It provides plentiful tax credits and rebates to taxpayers and companies who buy into or transition to cleaner technologies, like electric appliances, EVs, or renewable energy sources. Low-income or BIPOC grassroots groups and EJ communities can access more readily available funding for air monitoring technology, technical assistance, urban forestry, and more. Even government contractors can see their subsidized budgets and clientele sizably increase if they comply to prevailing wage and apprenticeship guidelines. However, this bill is surprisingly limited on sticks.

The sticks that are present do have potential to make meaningful environmental changes. For instance, the IRA taxes corporations at a much higher rate for leaking methane, holding a land lease without developing it, or refusing to comply with renewable energy transitions. The Superfund excise tax (which was reinstated in 2021) has even been applied to crude oil/petroleum products and a list of chemical substances, including two PFAS. (Polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “PFAS,” are extremely pervasive and long-lasting chemicals or microplastics known to be harmful to human health). Nevertheless, for a bill determined to lower national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to pre-2005 levels, it hesitates to give the oil and gas (O&G) industry a slap on the wrist. It even provides hearty kickbacks to the O&G industry, such as authorizing the lease of previously unavailable offshore wells in Alaska and the Gulf Coast and allowing extraction wells to be located nearby (or preferred over) wind or solar farms.

Along with failing to directly limit O&G, this bill also ignores a few key battles within the environmental movement. First, hazardous fracking waste regulation is absent from the bill. As detailed in my previous blog, orphaned radioactive fracking waste is a national issue that falls through the cracks of most state and federal regulatory agencies. Second, the PFAS that are included in the renewed Superfund chemicals list are “legacy” PFAS. They are no longer manufactured (some stopped being made over 15 years ago) but still have significant presence within EJ communities. Despite their inclusion being a success to these groups, it belies the fact that hundreds of other similarly dangerous PFAS are still being synthesized and sold without much regulation. Lastly, the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), a program intended to put restoration and conservation efforts directly into the hands of community members, was absent from the finalized bill. The Biden Administration designed the CCC to be a climate-based government program modeled after the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) or Civil Works Administration (CWA). It was a revitalized effort to make environmentalism and community decision-making accessible for lower-wealth, BIPOC, and young people. Sadly, those plans fell through at the last minute. In fairness, it is truly remarkable that this bill passed at all, especially since its authority is uncertain.

As of late, the U.S. Supreme Court has been set on undermining crucial environmental regulations. In West Virginia v. EPA (2022), SCOTUS ruled that the EPA could not put state-level caps on carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. In Sackett v. EPA (2023), SCOTUS is likely to rule in favor of reducing protections of wetlands and waterways harbored under the Clean Water Act. It would not be any surprise if a case against one of the hundreds of policies contained in the IRA made its way to the Supreme Court. Nor would it be a shock if they too ruled in favor of dismantling a central component to these new environmental laws. The good news, however, is that this would likely be a decades-long process due to the copious number of laws and policies included in this bill. Now, if an anti-environmentalist collective were to gain the majority in the U.S. Congress in a future election cycle, that would be a different story.

No matter how likely a retaliation to this bill is or how much it is missing, it does not invalidate the small joy of watching the U.S. try to take a huge step towards becoming a greener, cleaner country. However, we must acknowledge that this bill does not nearly satisfy environmentalists’ demands, especially with Sen. Manchin’s “Dirty Bill” looming over it.

To learn more about the Inflation Reduction Act, check out this informative video by Hank Green of the VlogBrothers.

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Why the EPA Is Like It Is

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

By William Sanjour.

Some of you may remember Bill Sanjour. Bill was a life-long employee of EPA in the Office of Solid Waste. He was an active critic of the agency, and he wrote several articles about the agency where he spent most of his working life. This is an excerpt from one of these articles. Contact for a copy of the complete article.

I am frequently asked why the United States Environmental Protection Agency does not seem to be particularly interested in protecting the environment. EPA is frequently cited as not only failing to protect the environment but even for working at cross purposes to environmental protection. I’ve concluded that to understand why EPA is the way that it is, you must start at the top, at the White House.

Any President of the United States and his immediate staff have an agenda of about a half dozen issues that they are most concerned with. These are usually national security, foreign affairs, the economy, the budget, and maybe one or two other issues. These I’ll call the Class A priorities. Other presidential responsibilities such as housing, education, welfare, transportation, the environment, veteran’s affairs, etc. I’ll call Class B priorities.

Equally important, but less well-known is the so-called “hidden agenda.” This includes such considerations as getting re-elected, getting supporters re-elected, and “where do we go when our term in office is over?” The hidden agenda is not peculiar to the White House as similar considerations are shared by every government official from the Speaker of the House to the House janitor. We are, after all, talking about people who, although they may be lofty government dignitaries, nevertheless have mortgages to pay, children to send to college, and orthodontist bills. When one brings the hidden agenda out of hiding, the actions of the government become the actions of people and they become clearer.

For the Class A priorities, the President appoints people he knows, and trusts and he demands performance. He will expect the military to be able to deploy forces anywhere in the world when an emergency arises. If they are not ready when he needs them, he will “bang heads and kick asses.” But can you picture any President of the United States bringing the Secretary of Education into his office and slamming his fist on the table because of low SAT scores in Sheboygan? Or bringing the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency into the oval office to chew him out for the pollution in the Cuyahoga River? I can’t. And that, to my mind, is the difference. The President expects performance in Class A. He expects something else in Class B.

That something else is peace and quiet. The President will usually appoint people to head Class B agencies who are amenable to the special interests concerned with that agency, rather than his own cronies, but the message that goes out from the White House to the managers in Class B is, “do anything you want so long as it doesn’t impinge on the President’s Class A priorities.” But EPA can do almost nothing which doesn’t adversely affect business, especially big and influential business, and that disturbs the President’s peace and quiet. Furthermore, uncovering the hidden agenda reveals that the President needs big business to finance election campaigns and his staff is looking ahead to parlaying their White House experience to seven figure jobs in private industry.

The Administrator of EPA is usually someone who is agreeable to the mainline environmentalists but one who is also a “team player.” He can make all the speeches he wants about the environmental ethic, but he must not do anything to make waves. This message permeates the entire agency. The message isn’t transmitted through written or even oral instructions. It’s more a case of survival of the “fittest.” People who like to get things done, people who need to see concrete results for their efforts, don’t last long at EPA. When it comes to drafting and implementing rules for environmental protection, getting results means making enemies of powerful and influential people. No, they don’t usually get fired, but they don’t get advanced either, and their responsibilities are transferred to other people, and they usually leave the agency in disgust. The kind of people who get ahead are those clever wimps who can be terribly busy while they procrastinate, obfuscate, and come up with superficially plausible reasons for not accomplishing anything.

The bottom line is that if you want EPA to pay attention to you, you have to affect the careers of EPA employees. If you organize and have a large block of supporters, then you can influence local, state, and federal elections. You can also use your influence on local banks, merchants, or anyone else who might be tempted to profit from a hazardous waste facility in your backyard. By pressuring these people, you in turn affect the pocketbooks and careers of EPA employees, and thus their actions. If you win locally, EPA will follow.