After nearly two years of negotiations and stalemates, the Senate passed pivotal climate and energy legislation.
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Senate passes sweeping tax, climate package
Senate Democrats have passed their sweeping tax, health care and climate change legislation after a marathon night of voting, with Vice President Harris casting the decisive vote to break a 50-50 deadlock and send the package to the House.
The long-awaited $740 billion bill would raise taxes on corporations, tackle climate change, lower prescription drug costs and reduce the deficit.
The bill was approved on Sunday afternoon after a full night and morning in which senators worked nonstop on the consideration of amendments to the legislation. Democrats generally stuck together to defeat GOP amendments that might have scuttled the bill.
Democratic senators also applauded their staff, who were seated at the back of the chamber.
Once seen as all but dead, the bill came back to life last week after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) reached a deal that narrowed the more than $3 trillion legislation and renamed it the Inflation Reduction Act.
So what’s in it?
- Tax credits are extended for residential clean energy expenses including rooftop solar, heat pumps and small wind energy systems. Consumers can get credits for 30 percent of expenditures through 2032, and the credit phases down after that.
- The future of solar and wind on public lands and wind in public waters would be tied to requirements to hold lease sales that open up new oil and gas production.
- A new program aims to reduce emissions of the planet-warming gas methane from oil and gas by both providing grants and loans to help companies reign in their emissions and levying fees on producers with excess methane emissions.
- Minimum royalties increase for companies to pay the government for oil and gas they extract on public lands and waters. A royalty is added to the extraction of gas that is later burned off or released as waste instead of sold as fuel.
- $3 billion would go to environmental justice block grants — community-led programs addressing harms from climate change and pollutants, including
$20 million for technical assistance at the community level, through fiscal
- Tax credits are extended for energy production and investment in technologies including wind, solar and geothermal energies. The investment tax credit also now applies to battery storage and biogas.
- Tax credits would be created or extended for additional technologies and energy sources including nuclear energy, hydrogen energy coming from clean sources, biofuels and technology that captures carbon from fossil fuel power plants.
Read more about the package’s provisions here.
SENATORS REJECT SANDERS CLIMATE AMENDMENTS
During the vote-a-rama leading up to the Senate’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, senators rejected a push from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to strip out the bill’s pro-fossil provisions and add a Civilian Climate Corps.
Sanders, during a floor speech, said he would be introducing amendments to strike all of the bill’s benefits for the fossil fuel industry and to devote $30 billion to the climate jobs program.
But his efforts failed 99-1 and 98-1, with his colleagues seeking to keep their existing deal with conservative Democrats Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) intact.
QUOTE OF NOTE
“This victory is decades in the making, but it took the fierce and relentless work of countless young people across the country who refused to back down from the fight of their lives…Today is a day to celebrate, and to stand in solidarity as we look ahead to the fights to come.” — Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), whose Waxman-Markey climate bill flopped more than a decade ago, reflected on that moment and celebrated the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in a statement on Sunday.
“Twelve years ago, I watched my landmark climate legislation pass in the House and die in the Senate. Today, powered by a movement that never once wavered in the struggle for a livable future, I joined my Democratic colleagues in passing a bill that makes historic investments in climate justice and delivers the resources we need to have a fighting chance at a livable planet.”
On Twitter, he particularly called for the passage of the Green New Deal and the Civilian Climate Corps jobs program moving forward.
National average gas price expected to dip below $4
The national average price for a gallon of gas fell to $4.01 on Monday and is expected to imminently fall below $4, according to estimates by GasBuddy.
Gas prices have fallen for eight consecutive weeks after briefly peaking at a record high of more than $5 per gallon in mid-June, according to the gas price tracker’s analysis. AAA reported a nationwide average of $4.059 per gallon on Monday.
- “The national average is poised to fall back under $4 per gallon as early as today as we see the decline in gas prices enter its eighth straight week,” Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, said in a statement.
- “By the end of the week, one hundred thousand stations will be at $3.99 or less,” he said.
However: But average gas prices still vary widely by state.
Texas on Monday reported the lowest average gas price at $3.51, closely followed by Oklahoma and South Carolina.
Gas prices in two western states — California and Hawaii — still remain above $5.30, followed by Alaska at $4.97.
De Haan suggested that prospects indicate gas prices will continue to fall, though he added that hurricane season could lead to disruptions.
- “The groundwork is laid for a ninth week of decline, with areas of the West Coast soon ditching the $5 per gallon average,” said De Haan. “While I’m upbeat the drop can continue for another couple weeks, we’re starting to see some activity in the tropics, which may increase risk of potential disruption.”
GasBuddy’s analysis indicates diesel prices are also dropping, falling 13.1 cents in the last week and now standing at an average of $5.14 per gallon. De Haan said that average will likely soon dip below $5.
Read more from The Hill’s Zach Schonfeld.
‘Dry lightning’ causes destructive, expensive wildfires
Dry lightning bursts are the leading cause of some of the biggest wildfire flare-ups in California’s history, a new study has found.
So-called dry lightning — or lightning that occurs with less than 2.5 millimeters of rain — outbreaks are relatively rare, according to the study, published on Monday in Environmental Research: Climate.
But such sparks can cause destructive wildfires “due to the intersection of dense, dry vegetation and a large population living adjacent to fire-prone lands,” the authors found.
These findings come just days after lightning triggered eight active wildfires in Northern California, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The Six Rivers Lightning Complex, which began on Friday, is “burning in steep rugged terrain” and prompted evacuation orders this weekend throughout the surrounding Humboldt County.
- “Wildfires are a growing threat in California as the climate continues to warm,” lead author Dmitri Kalashnikov, a doctoral student at Washington State University’s School of the Environment, said in a statement.
- “Unlike human-caused fires that originate in a single location, lightning outbreaks can strike multiple locations and start numerous simultaneous wildfires, creating a substantial challenge for fire response,” he added.
Moisture and instability high in the atmosphere — above a hot, dry lower atmosphere — are the key drivers of so-called dry lightning outbreaks across Central and Northern California, the researchers determined.
Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.
ON TAP THIS WEEK
- The House is planning to reconvene this Friday and take up the Democrats’ sprawling climate, tax and health care bill following Senate passage Sunday.
- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office sent out a floor update on Friday announcing that votes are expected on Friday, Aug. 12. The House is currently out of session for August recess.
- “Members are advised that pending Senate action on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the House is expected to meet on Friday, August 12th, to consider the legislation,” the floor update reads.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Manchin’s Donors Include Pipeline Giants That Win in His Climate Deal (The New York Times)
- A Uranium Ghost Town in the Making (Pro Publica & The Los Angeles Times)
- Climate Change Is Supercharging Most Infectious Diseases, New Study Finds (HuffPost)
- Due to climate change, Nevada says goodbye to grass (CBS News)
- South Korea Accelerates LNG Purchases to Avoid Winter Shortage (Bloomberg)
😻 Lighter click: Happy International Cat Day!
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.