Eye on the Environment
By Frances Lamberts
A long drought, as Bill McKibben of Middlebury College characterized the more than three-decade span without major climate action from the Congress, finally came to a good end. Sweeping legislation long sought by President Biden, though twice reduced in scope from his earlier vi- sion, was enacted last month in the Inflation Reduction Act. It promises to achieve deep cuts by 2030 – of more than 40 percent compared to their 2005 levels – in the emissions which are driving our heat waves, wildfires, floods and other weather extremes under climate change.
It does so by investing more than $360 billion toward accelerating the tran- sition to renewable-energy. It will train in apprentice- ship programs and employ hundreds of thousands of people in home-energy rebate projects and in expanding the manufacturing of solar panels, batteries
and other renewable-energy technologies in the U.S. (It also seeks to ensure that, for most of its funded projects, the workers “are paid no less than prevailing rates … in the localities where facilities are located.”)
The law offers large tax credits and rebates for individual users, such as up to $14,000 for heat-pump installation and other energy-efficiency upgrades, and a 30% tax credit for residential solar panels.
It also removes barriers to large-scale solar projects by giving direct cash incentives for these to tax-exempt organizations, including municipalities, which could help in making solar power more accessible to average citizens generally. As local example one is reminded that, when our Town weighed an option for a large solar array on the solid waste/recycling facility, in the 2000-2010 decade, lack of any such funding doomed the project.
Might this IRA provision also assist other public entities, like BrightRidge and the Washington County Commission, in provision of solar energy to ordinary customers, with- out a many-years-long wait?
The IRA extends $2.6 billion in funding to NOAA (National Aeronautics and Atmospheric Association) to help storm-and-erosion afflicted coastal communities to strengthen their resilience efforts. And, toward enhancing nature’s own carbon-ab- sorption ability, it provides almost $21 billion to help farmers and ranchers shift to cover-crop planting and other conservation practices, and to protect old-growth and mature forest land. And it invests in protecting key habitat areas for species affected by climate change and seeks to ensure robust engagement again by the public, under NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act), for large development projects on the public lands.
We can thank President Biden for his persistence toward making this highly positive climate legislation a reality. Regretfully, though, our congressional GOP representative and senators were absent-in-action on achieving it.