August 2022

Last week, Senator Joe Manchin (D -WV) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced they reached a legislative deal to confront climate change and have since included that deal within the newly announced  Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. 

What follows below is both a statement by the Indigenous Environmental Network as well as a briefing on what this climate deal means and its impacts on our communities. 

IEN Statement: 

This legislative bill continues where the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act 2021 left off by propping up the same harmful industries Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and frontline communities are fighting now. The so-called “climate deal” is a wholesale investment into destructive climate false solutions designed to line the pockets of the fossil fuel and energy industries and cultivate the growth of the extractive industries.

What does this mean?

The most insidious framework in the bill is the attempt by Senators Manchin and Schumer to buy off BIPOC and marginalized communities by allocating comparatively meager amounts of grants and loans as “environmental justice investments”—dangling a carrot in the face of Tribal communities to open up their lands to harmful practices like carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, nuclear, forest and agriculture offsets, and biofuel development. Similar tactics to gain the support of the labor movement by haphazardly attaching boilerplate “prevailing wage requirements” are seen throughout the bill, without providing any meaningful pathways to a Just Transition for workers and frontline communities. Not only does the IRA ignore frontline communities’ calls to address the climate crisis at its source, the bill exacerbates the climate crisis by stymying the ability for a Just Transition to community-based renewable energy through an unprecedented quid pro quo with oil and gas leasing. 

[For educational materials on false solutions read the Hoodwinked in the Hothouse report.]

The Democrats are mistaken if they believe that Indigenous communities will be duped into being a pawn for the fossil fuel industry. At a press conference last week, President Biden described the bill as “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis…” It would be more accurate to state the IRA is one of the greatest disappointments coming from this administration. The IRA does not absolve the President from the responsibility to declare a climate emergency and address the crisis at the source. We will continue to pressure President Biden to declare a climate emergency and use his executive powers to stop the extractive industries from causing more violence, death and destruction. President Biden must declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act and keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the reasons IEN does not support the Inflation Reduction Act 2022: 

1. The environmental justice investments in the IRA are not what they seem. 

The package promises to provide over $60 billion in “environmental justice priorities.” These “priorities” are driven by channels of investments into low-income and disadvantaged communities to develop plans, strategies, capacities, and technologies to reduce emissions and build climate resilience. However, the bill offers no criteria for what qualifies as an EJ provision. As a result, there is no clear way to verify the promised amount of investment. Moreover, a provision that has no positive impact on EJ communities can claim to have EJ priorities.

Investment in provisions with “environmental justice priorities” are distributed in two main ways: 1) Either by the establishment of grants and funds to be administered by the (Biden) Administration, or the Treasury, or 2) increased/new funding for emission reduction and capacity enhancement programs/tax codes. 

Overall Environmental Justice Investment Concerns: 

While there are promising steps that can make meaningful contributions to environmental justice, the language and scope of some provisions risks perpetuating injustice to disadvantaged communities, particularly to Tribal nations and Indigenous Peoples. 

Sec. 60103: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund – $27 billion (pg. 658)

Sec. 60102: Grants to Reduce Air Pollution at Ports – $3 billion (pg. 653) 

Sec. 60501: Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program – $1.1 billion (pg. 699) 

2. The IRA ensures the increased build out of fossil fuel development.

Instead of establishing a framework for a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry, the IRA – in a quid pro quo framework – ties wind and solar development to oil and gas leasing. Specifically, the IRA frames domestic energy production, including the expansion of fossil fuels, as an issue of national security. The logic goes that by increasing production at-home, the U.S. becomes more energy independent, and therefore, able to better protect its energy sources, markets, and prices.

Sec. 50265 Ensuring Energy Security (pg. 6.44)

3. The great majority of the dressed up climate provisions are investments into false solutions like CCS, nuclear, hydrogen, biofuels and carbon trading. 

In essence, this bill continues where the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act left off by propping up the same harmful industries BIPOC and frontline communities are fighting now.


Sec. 13104: Extension and Modification of Credit for Carbon Oxide Sequestration

Sec. 50144: Energy Infrastructure and Reinvestment Financing (pg. 605)

Sec. 50172 and 50173 Other Energy Matters (pg. 621)

4. Agriculture is awarded investments to quantify carbon and continue the work of setting up soil-based carbon offsets through “climate-smart agriculture.” 

Carbon offsets are bought by the fossil fuel and other private industries to falsely claim they are “net-zero” or “carbon neutral.” The first step to build a carbon market is to measure the carbon. Efforts to study, quantify, and track GHG reductions and soil carbon sequestration associated with land-based conservation practices will encourage carbon markets. Increased funding for conservation programs will promote soil offsets for carbon markets. IRA increases funding for biofuels and bolsters national biofuel infrastructure. 

Sec. 21002: Conservation Technical Assistance (pg. 536)

Sec. 21001: Additional Agricultural Conservation Investments (pg. 527)

Sec. 22003: Biofuel Infrastructure and Agriculture Product Market Expansion (pg. 541)

Sec. 60108: Funding for Sec 211(O) of the Clean Air Act (pg. 670)

5. Like agriculture, the IRA’s forestry efforts aim to increase sequestration, which will benefit carbon markets and the fossil fuel industry.

The forestry section aims to increase funding for the “participation of underserved forest landowners in emerging private markets for climate mitigation or forest resilience…” The “emerging private markets for climate mitigation” are to be used to prop up carbon markets that benefit the fossil fuels industry. This is not environmental justice nor climate mitigation (p.546).


Sec. 23002: Competitive Grants for Non-Federal Forest Owners (pg. 552)

6. The passing of the IRA will secure a future for the fossil fuel industry. 

An agreement to a future deal that will “streamline” the permitting process for pipelines and export terminals in exchange for Manchin’s support on the IRA, and this could have implications for NEPA and potentially weakening the Clean Water Act. More on this development in the future.


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