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EPA launches $20 billion fund to boost clean energy projects and create thousands of jobs

Environmental groups slammed Republicans for trying to repeal funding for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

By Oliver Willis - July 17, 2023
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A plume of smoke being emitted into the air from a power plant, Feb. 16, 2022, in Fairbanks, Alaska.
A plume of smoke being emitted into the air from a power plant, Feb. 16, 2022, in Fairbanks, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday launched two national competitions worth a combined $20 billion that are projected to create jobs and help the United States reduce carbon emissions. The Republican majority in the House had repeatedly failed to defund the initiative.

The White House said the $14 billion National Clean Investment Fund will fund up to three nonprofit national financing organizations that, in collaboration with private sector groups, will fund what are estimated to be thousands of clean technology projects across the United States. At least 40% of the money involved will be targeted to low-income and disadvantaged communities, including tribal communities and areas with environmental justice concerns, a long-standing focus of the Biden administration.

Another $6 billion will be used for the Clean Communities Investment Accelerator, which will support up to seven nonprofit organizations that fund and assist local clean technology projects. The entirety of this funding will go to low-income and disadvantaged communities.

“When the President and I invest in climate, we intend to invest in jobs, invest in families, and invest in America,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in remarks announcing the program on Friday at Coppin State University, a historically Black public university in Maryland.

The EPA described the investments as part of President Joe Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda, the administration’s terminology for investments in industry and infrastructure that have been made during his presidency.

Funds for the competitions come from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which was created by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. The law passed Congress with only Democratic votes and over unified opposition from Republicans in both houses.

Since taking a narrow majority in the House following the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans have tried to kill the fund.

The Lower Energy Costs Act, introduced by Majority Leader Steve Scalise on March 14, would have repealed the entirety of the fund.

The legislation was decried by environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund, which described it as a “harmful energy package,” and the Sierra Club, which said the legislation “puts polluters over people.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget called the bill a “thinly veiled license to pollute” and noted that repealing the fund would be a blow to efforts to lower energy costs and boost economic development in urban communities. The office said that Biden would veto the bill if it passed Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described the bill as “dead on arrival” in a March 15 speech in the Senate and said it would not be brought up for consideration.

“Unfortunately, House Republicans seem to think the best solution for our energy needs is not to help America transition to clean energy but, unfortunately, they think doubling down on more giveaways to Big Oil is the way to go,” Schumer said in a March 21 speech.

No action has been taken on the bill in the Senate since Schumer’s comments.

House Republicans also tried to kill the fund in the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, which passed in the House on April 27. The provision was included with legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling. The bill was never voted on in the Democratic-led Senate. Ultimately, the Fiscal Responsibility Act raised the debt ceiling without cuts to environmental investments that Republicans sought. Biden signed the bill into law on June 3.

Republicans have attacked the fund despite analysis that has projected positive outcomes from upcoming investments.

According to an April report from consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the potential impact of the fund over a 10-year period could include the reduction of greenhouse gasses by 850 metric megatons and the creation of one million jobs. Greenhouse gases are the largest contributor to global climate change.

The analysis also indicates that the fund would help to attract billions of dollars in private investments that could lead the U.S. to achieve the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The EPA is accepting applications for both grant programs until Oct.12 from nonprofits that provide funding for low- and zero-emissions projects.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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