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“I’m not sure why he felt the need to burn the spider.”

Debating the Inflation Reduction Act, permitting reform, and the climate endgame


Climate justice activists rallied around the nation from the White House to South Dakota, New York City to Seattle, calling on President Joe Biden to declare a national climate emergency and stop all federal fossil fuel lease sales. President Biden is calling for the immediate passage of Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.V.) Inflation Reduction Act, which mandates federal fossil fuel lease sales, including several that have been recently canceled. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to bring the bill to the floor for a vote-a-rama this week.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took to the Senate floor last night to compare the limited, corporate-friendly IRA with the crises facing the American people. He was not impressed. Sanders noted the weakness of the healthcare, climate, and tax provisions comprising the bill, concluding that now “is the time for every member of the Senate to study this bill thoroughly and to come up with amendments and suggestions as to how we can improve it.”

Even though both Big Green and Big Oil are on board with the passage of the IRA,1 ostensibly climate-friendly Big Tech is not. Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft are all refusing to back the climate package because it might raise their taxes. The tech lobbyists won’t take the calls of the Protocol climate reporting team, most likely because they’re too busy speed-dialing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the corporatist holdout on Team Democrat.

Manchin’s support for clean-energy spending in the IRA is further conditioned on a second “permitting reform” bill getting a vote later in the year. The permitting deal, which Manchin claims Biden, Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi back, would gut the National Environmental Policy Act review process and require the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline through the Virginias, the fracked-gas equivalent of 25 new coal plants.

There are many many serious white men who love the phrasepermitting reform,” purportedly because they’re so concerned about roadblocks to renewable projects. But this is yet another case where “reform” is code for deregulation. As Western Environmental Law Center executive director Erik Schlenker-Goodrich explains, “it’s a profound mistake to focus on speed versus agility of permitting. If you want to improve permitting, don’t weaken the laws. To move with agility, strengthen agency culture to provide for creative, agile decision-making and provide agency staff resources to act.”

Major climate organizations willing to swallow the IRA’s fossil-fuel provisions, such as Sierra Club and Earthjustice, say the permitting bill is a bridge too far.

Sheriff's deputies leave a home where a McKinney fire victim was found on Monday. Credit: Noah Berger

After a few days of explosive growth, California’s McKinney Fire near the Oregon border has now eclipsed the Oak Fire as the state’s largest wildfire of the year. Two more victims died in their homes. There are active wildfires in Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Washington.

One of the Utah wildfires was sparked by a man “who tried to kill a spider with a lighter.” Sgt. Spencer Cannon told KUTV: “I’m not sure why he felt the need to burn the spider.” News reports did not indicate the spider’s fate.

It’s steam-bath blazing hot across the nation, thanks to the wildly profitable fossil-fuel industry. Larry and Mary Greer, a couple in their 80s in southeast Georgia, died in the sweltering heat of their mobile home. Warren Buffett, a man in his 90s in eastern Nebraska, is making billions of dollars from his 20% stake in Occidental Petroleum.

The Mass Power Forward coalition is pushing Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Mass.) to sign H.5060, the clean energy and offshore wind bill overwhelmingly approved by the legislature, into law. Baker has already negotiated a round of amendments to the bill.

Eleven of the world’s leading climate scientists have published “Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calling for much more serious research into the “plausible worst cases” for human society, especially if fossil-fueled warming continues on its current trajectory.

This morning, the Senate Homeland Security committee is marking up a passel of bills, notably the Global Catastrophic Risk Management Act, cosponsored by Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), which would establish an interagency committee on global catastrophic risk, including “severe global pandemics, nuclear war, asteroid and comet impacts, supervolcanoes, sudden and severe changes to the climate, and intentional or accidental threats arising from the use and development of emerging technologies.” So long as nobody involved listens to Toby Ord

Also today, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), a member of the House Climate Crisis committee, is chairing a field hearing on the Oregon coast about, as you might expect, the climate crisis and the Oregon coast.

A few more reads:

Hearings on the Hill:

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1 Of course, even while oil executives are praising the IRA’s various fossil-fuel giveaways, their lobbyists are working to kill corporate tax hikes. Big Oil figures to do fine whether the bill passes or not, just so long they can keep their stranglehold on our political system. Climate endgame!

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