The U.S. Senate on Sunday passed a bill that would, if it becomes law, take America’s first major steps towards addressing the climate crisis and overhaul the 100-year-old system that governs oil and gas leasing on public lands in the West.
The Inflation Reduction Act contains $369 million in climate funding, including tax breaks on electric vehicles, and incentives to increase domestic production of batteries and solar panels. It also requires oil and gas companies to pay up front when nominating public land for leasing, increases the royalty rate that companies pay for publicly-owned oil and gas, and makes them pay that royalty even when they waste methane by flaring or venting it.
But the bill’s successes came with strings attached to win the support of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. In order for the Interior Department to advance renewable energy projects, it requires onshore lease sales of half the acreage that oil companies nominate, or two million acres per year, whichever is smaller. It also requires offshore lease sales of at least 60 million acres per year. An additional disappointment came over the weekend, when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that increasing the bonds that oil companies must post before drilling didn’t meet Senate rules for inclusion under the budget reconciliation process. The bonding requirements were removed from the final bill.
Despite the tradeoffs, climate hawks in the Senate were emotional as the bill passed on a party-line vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.
“I don’t know if it’s quite caught up with me yet,” Sen. Martin Heinrich said. “We thought we were going to get this done back in 2009, 2010 and obviously it took another 12 years. It’s going to be transformative.”
The bill now goes to the House for consideration, and it could be sent to the White House for President Biden’s signature this week.
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Quote of the day
“This is a planetary emergency, and this is the first time the federal government has taken action that is worthy of the moment. Now I can look my kids in the eye.”
“He’s my best friend, he’s my pal, he’s my homeboy, my rotten soldier, my sweet cheese, my good time boy.” – Laszlo
Sometimes it’s nice to find solitude in nature. Other times, it’s good to take a best friend, a pal, someone you’ll think twice about before pushing down to outrun a bear.
Two bears embrace one another on a cloudy morning in Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaksa. NPS/Lian Law
Featured image: Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote, C-SPAN