Monday, November 28

Energy & Environment — Major climate bill becomes law


President Biden signed a better climate, tax and health care package into law. Meanwhile, states in the West failed to reach a water-sharing agreement.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Biden signs Inflation Reduction Act into law

President Biden signed into law a sweeping bill to lower health care costs and address climate change on Tuesday, sealing a legislative victory more than a year in the making.

The $740 billion bill was significantly slimmed down from the original
$3.5 trillion package some envisioned last fall but nevertheless represents an undeniable win for Biden and Democrats in Congress. It includes some of Biden’s key campaign promises and makes the largest investment in federal climate programs in history.

“With unwavering conviction, commitment, and patience, progress does come,” Biden said in the State Dining Room as he prepared to sign the legislation. “And when it does, like today, people’s lives are made better, and the future becomes brighter and a nation can be transformed.”

Biden was introduced by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (DS.C.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.). Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), who negotiated with Schumer to move the package forward, sat in the front row at the signing and was the only other senator in attendance. He received a round of applause when Schumer credited him with getting the legislation across the finish line.

  • Biden said he looked forward to signing the bill for 18 months and was flanked by lawmakers when he did so, handing the first pen dramatically off to Manchin.
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, deputy national climate adviser Ali Zaidi and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (DN.J.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), among others, attended the event at the White House.

The room gave a long standing ovation for Biden when he got to the podium. He wore a mask in the room when he wasn’t speaking because first lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 earlier on Tuesday.

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To refresher: The bill passed through party-line votes in the Senate and House in recent weeks; no Republicans voted in favor of the package.

By 2030, the law is expected to bring US planet-warming emissions down to between 32 and 42 percent lower than they were in 2005 through many of its provisions to promote the deployment of clean energy, according to several recent analyses. It also contains provisions that boost fossil fuels, which were included to secure the support of Manchin.

  • Democrats view the climate change provisions in particular as game-changing investments.
  • “It will make the US a global clean energy powerhouse and very likely we will look back on this as the start of a clean energy economic revolution in the same way we look back at the early 1990s as the IT revolution,” said Josh Freed, leader of the climate and energy program at centrist Democratic think tank Third Way.

Read more here from The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Morgan Chalfant.

Feds cut Colorado River allocations as talks fail

States along the Colorado River have officially missed a federally imposed deadline to develop a new water-sharing agreement, and the federal government on Tuesday announced new water allocation reductions, including nearly 25 percent in cuts to Arizona.

  • The Colorado River basin serves seven states — an Upper Basin of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and a lower one of Arizona, California and Nevada — and its waters are allocated based on the terms of a century-old agreement from when there was substantially more water in the river.
  • Meanwhile, the region is facing a 20-years-and-counting drought, the worst in centuries.

In June, the Interior Department gave the states 60 days to agree on a new allocation plan for an additional 15 percent reduction on top of expected federal reductions before the federal government stepped in. That period expired Tuesday.

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Thecuts: In a news conference Tuesday, federal Bureau of Reclamation officials announced cuts to the yearly water allocation to Arizona and Nevada, as well as Mexico, which is also party to the compact. The bureau will hold about 21 percent of Arizona’s yearly water allocation next year, as well as 8 percent of Nevada’s.

California will not see its allocation affected, and no immediate changes are planned for the Upper Basin.

  • “Everything blew up” in negotiations last week, Kyle Roerink, executive director at the Great Basin Water Network, told The Hill in an interview.
  • “You had some parties bringing a good chunk of water to the table. Others didn’t even want to be bothered with coming to the table with anything meaningful,” Roerink said. As a result, as of Monday evening, the states had not reached an agreement “as the nation’s largest reservoirs rapidly deplete themselves.”

In January, Lake Mead will be at the level required for a Tier 2 shortage, 1,050 feet below sea level, for the first time ever, according to federal officials.

Roerink called the breakdown a microcosm of the poor relations among stakeholders on the river. The major players, whom he dubbed the “water buffaloes,” have “touted their ability to collaborate and coordinate and negotiate in a civilized manner, but if the last week is any indicator, folks are not singing ‘Kumbaya,’ they are sharpening their knives,” he said.

Rather than negotiate towards a mutually beneficial agreement, he said, parties have been focused on reaching an arrangement that benefits them at the expense of others.

Read more about the lack of an agreement here.

OFFICIALS NEARLY DOUBLING ELECTRIC BUSES ON THE ROADS

The Biden administration said on Tuesday that it is nearly doubling the number of zero-emission buses on the road through funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $1.66 billion in grants to transit agencies, territories and states that will facilitate the purchase of 1,800 new buses. Of those, 1,100 will be zero-emission vehicles and will nearly double the number of zero-emission buses on the roads, the FTA said in a press release.

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“With today’s awards, we’re helping communities across America – in cities, suburbs, and rural areas alike – purchase more than 1,800 new buses, and most of them are zero-emission,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a written statement.

The funds represent the first of five years of investments that will total $5.5 billion.

Transportation is the greatest contributor to climate change in the US, representing 27 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more about the announcement here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Oil output in Permian to rise to record high in September -EIA (Reuters)
  • Central Idaho’s Mackay Dam is an ‘accident waiting to happen,’ officials say (The Idaho Statesman)
  • A historic climate-fueled drought in Europe revealed ominous, centuries-old ‘hunger stones’ warning of hardship (Business Insider)
  • Falling Oil Prices Defy Predictions. But What About the Next Chapter? (The New York Times)
  • California Braces for 109-Degree Heat That Will Test Grid (Bloomberg)

ICYMI

❗ Lighter click: A new red panda cub!

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.

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