House Flip May Imperil Clean Energy Push
Analysts See Regional Upside For Measures In Inflation Reduction Act
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service
A flip of the Congress in next week’s midterm elections could give Republicans the opening some have been looking for to repeal the federal Inflation Reduction Act, but a panel of local energy sector experts said last week they think the law can withstand the scrutiny that could be coming its way.
The IRA, which passed Congress without a single Republican vote and was signed into law in August, “makes the single largest investment in climate energy in American history” to “tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, secure our own position as a world leader in clean energy manufacturing, and put in the United States a pathway to a net-zero economy,” New England Council President James Brett said Friday as he opened a webinar on how the law will play out in New England.
As Republicans look to regain control of the U.S. House and Senate with a consistent focus on President Joe Biden and his administration’s economic and climate policies, there has already been talk of a post-midterms Republican majority repealing some or all of the IRA, particularly its corporate tax minimums, IRS funding and prescription drug reforms. Regardless of whether a new House speaker acts on the campaign season talk, the sprawling climate, health care and tax law is certain to be under the microscope in a new Congress, one analyst said.
“It’s not unlike what we saw with the Affordable Care Act back at the beginning of the Obama administration, right. So we’re gonna see a new Congress come in and they’re just going to take out the long knives towards this towards, the IRA,” Beth Viola, a Brockton native and senior policy advisor at Holland & Knight who worked in the Clinton administration, said during the NEC virtual event.
She added that a narrowly-divided U.S. Senate would probably prevent “anything of any major consequence” from happening to the IRA. “But I do think it’s important to know that the House of Representatives, in particular, will probably spend a fair amount of time doing oversight of this legislation, which means that they are going to try to tie the hands of … the Biden administration and get them spending a lot of time responding to things as opposed to them using their resources to put money out the door. … [I]t is going to create some challenges for an administration that is currently already struggling to try to get bodies in place to help implement all of these big pieces of legislation.”
Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, said he thinks that the IRA’s focus on manufacturing — new and expanded tax credits, grants, and more — will act as “potentially a countervailing force” because he expects that many of the manufacturing hubs that stand to benefit will be located in predominantly red states.
“I think Beth is spot on, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of oversight on the implementation of a lot of these programs, particularly the incentives around clean energy,” Dolan said. “I think there is going to be a holdback on a full-scale repeal or undermining of the entire package because there’s going to be, I think, tremendous amount of interest among many Republicans on trying to support and get their districts front in line to be able to take advantage of some of the manufacturing pieces. So I think that’s going to create just enough of a friction point and a conflict internally in the caucus, that you may see the attention focus more on that oversight piece.”
Any attempts to chip away at or repeal the IRA will be watched closely in New England and the participants in NEC’s webinar on Friday largely agreed that the region is ready to reap the economic benefits that could flow from the federal law.
“The region as a whole is very well-positioned because of all the work that’s been done on the state level in most of our states. So, of course, New Hampshire is a bit of a stepchild in this regard, in terms of what we have done on a state level,” Rob Werner, New Hampshire state director of the League of Conservation Voters, said. “But given all the the goals and legislation that had been passed in Massachusetts, particularly recently, and most of the other New England states in terms of the ambitious goals they have and the ways that they’re going to need to utilize the IRA and other programs and other resources to meet those goals … I’m very optimistic that we will get more than our fair share of economic opportunity and jobs.”