Pennsylvanians are celebrating the news that a massive tax, health, and climate bill could begin moving forward in the U.S. Senate this weekend.
Members of groups including Clean Air Council, Jewish Earth Alliance, and Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania rallied in front of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s office in Philadelphia Friday. Some wore party hats and ate cupcakes. A sign read, “Big win for climate. We did it.”
“The work is still not done — just like climate justice is still not done. Just like dealing with environmental racism is still not done. But we’ll take the win for today,” said Terrill Haigler, better known as Ya Fav Trashman.
The Inflation Reduction Act has not passed just yet. Senate Democrats plan to start moving the bill Saturday, after leaders struck a deal with key centrist holdout Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona.
Democrats plan to pass the package along party lines using a process known as reconciliation, which the Senate Parliamentarian must approve.
Saturday’s vote would be merely procedural, to kick off up to 20 hours of debate. Following that, a process known as vote-a-rama begins, when senators can introduce amendments.
Though smaller than what the Biden administration originally sought, the bill would be the largest investment yet on climate change.
It’s expected to reduce the country’s planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions roughly 40% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. This would move the U.S. significantly closer to Biden’s emission reduction goal of at least 50% by 2030 (current policies are expected to get the U.S. to 27% below 2005 levels by 2030).
“This legislation is a game changer, an historic opportunity to give us a fighting chance in the years to come,” said Leeannah McNew of the Clean Air Council, who recently protested at the Congressional Baseball Game to demand climate action. “Philadelphia needs this now.”
The bill would include about $385 billion in tax breaks and investments to fight climate change and boost energy production.
It would include $60 billion for low-income communities and communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by climate change.
It would also include investments in clean energy manufacturing, tax incentives for carbon-free power plants, credits for electric vehicles, rooftop solar, and energy-efficient appliances — including heat pumps.
“I’m particularly excited about the clean energy tax credits for energy efficiency, clean transportation, and more that will make it easier and more affordable for Pennsylvanians to put solar on their roofs, to buy electric vehicles or heat pumps, to make their homes more energy efficient,” said Flora Cardoni of PennEnvironment.
The U.S. is already experiencing a mounting toll of costly and deadly disasters, driven in part by climate change. Scientists say the world needs to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid some of the most catastrophic results of warming. The U.S. government has calculated that unchecked climate change could cost taxpayers trillions of dollars a year by the end of the century.
“Every second we fail to act on climate, the cost of inaction only grows,” said Amani Reid, of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light. “It only grows in this state. It only grows in this country.”
The package is also a compromise when it comes to reducing emissions. It guarantees leases for oil and gas drilling — a concession to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
But the advocates who demonstrated Friday see the bill as doing more good than bad.
“We can’t wait for perfection,” said state Rep. Christopher Rabb.
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