Inflation Reduction Act marks small first step - bottom line: fossil fuel extraction must end


The Inflation Reduction Act, the first ever substantial federal climate change legislation, looks almost certain to pass the House and head to the President's desk next week. Our friends at the Climate and Community Project published a comprehensive report on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly contained in the bill that we highly recommend. In summary:

GOOD: The Inflation Reduction Act will make important public investments in renewable energy, decarbonized transportation, domestic manufacturing, and public lands management. The bill also contains some key labor provisions and funding for environmental justice priorities. BAD: Key provisions from Build Back Better have been dropped, many of which were insufficient to start with. The IRA offers virtually nothing for non-car transportation or securing safe, comfortable, and affordable housing — especially for low- and middle income tenants and homeowners — and environmental justice funding falls far below the Biden Administration’s Justice40 commitments. UGLY: The IRA does not end the era of fossil fuels — it continues it, and bolsters it in some key ways. The bill mandates vast swathes of federal lands and waters be sacrificed for the ongoing development of fossil fuels and expands subsidies for dangerous distractions, including hydrogen and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS / CCUS). Recent news of a corresponding side deal with Senator Manchin would also weaken the environmental review process for new and expanded fossil fuel projects and mandate the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The bill is a deeply flawed and insufficient first step, but it is a beginning, not an end. We cannot rest on our laurels, content that the federal government has the reins from here. If anything our movement for justice, equity and life-affirming care for each other and the living beings that share the earth with us has become even more urgent - money will now begin to flow, and the neoliberal policies at the heart of the bill will favor those with the resources to influence its direction. By design industry and its lobbyists will take as much as possible for themselves unless we organize quickly to direct funds equitably for the most significant impact.

Even more dangerous, in direct contradiction to the irrefutable laws of physics underpinning the climate emergency, the bill ensures that oil and gas will continue to flow. A recent paper explores why decision makers and even climate scientists have deliberately failed to explore worst case scenarios. Climate Action Tracker reports that today’s official environmental policies around the world put us on track for 2.7° C of temperature rise before the end of the century. Temperatures could conceivably rise to 3.9° C before the end of the century, which would entail “catastrophic” changes to the global climate and existential repercussions for humanity. Most of the countries affected by temperature rise will be those least able to adapt, unraveling societies across the globe and amplifying international conflict, famine, and infectious disease spread. In other words, we continue to shy away from the reality of the path we are on and the consequences of kicking the can down the road.

Bottom line: if we want to live, fossil fuel extraction and combustion must end.

The battle continues in our backyards - now states, cities and counties can apply for funds, adopt laws and regulations to mitigate the harms in the bill and take action to stop fossil fuel extraction. We must work to oppose utilities slow walking our transition to 100% renewable energy, boost funding for public transportation, affordable and efficient housing, and impacted communities, and refuse to continue as an impoverished resource extraction colony.

New Mexico, as host to the Permian Basin, has an outsize role to play. We must take on the oil and gas industry to create the transformative change we need.

New Energy Economy is committed to redoubling our efforts for climate justice.

CHALLENGING THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S CONTINUED AVANGRID MERGER ADVOCACY

NM Attorney General Balderas has doubled down on its advocacy for the Avangrid/Iberdrola merger, filing a reply brief in violation of Supreme Court rules and alleging that the PRC and New Energy Economy introduced new matters before the court. If this were true, the AG’s untimely request may prompt the Court to relax its rules, but this is wholly untrue. We filed our objection this week as we continue to receive news of Avangrid and Iberdrola's brazen disregard for the law and lack of concern for customers:

  1. Avangrid suing their customers, garnishing wages during COVID to collect electric bills in violation of disconnection moratorium set by regulatory agency; Avangrid settles claim for $3M with Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority

  2. The Prosecutor's Office requests a fine of 84.9M Euros from Iberdrola and prison time for four of its directors for energy market manipulation, inflating energy costs, and draining a reservoir

  3. RG&E and NYSEG, both utilities owned by Avangrid, cause home buyers and builders to deal with months-long delays in connecting utilities to new homes and properties and customer service representatives offer no answers

  4. Spanish court orders Iberdrola to dismantle 60% of 500 MW operational PV solar plant – building a plant on property that was illegally expropriated

  5. Mexican regulator fines Spain's Iberdrola unit USD $466M for creating shell corporations to avoid laws prohibiting private sales between generators and industrial consumers:

Iberdrola/Avangrid has perfected this: creating shell corporations (also known as affiliates or affiliate interests) sometimes with the exact same board members, managers, etc. to skirt the regulations governing the parent company and potentially rig power purchase agreements to benefit their own affiliates over independent energy providers.

This is why we continue to oppose this dangerous merger proposal: it will stymie competition in the energy sector, raise prices for New Mexican's, and delay the transition to renewable energy that must take place now.

BRIEF OPPOSING PNM'S 2nd BRAZEN EMERGENCY REQUEST TO AVOID PAYING RATE CREDITS OWED TO CUSTOMERS FILED

PNM's greedy executives cannot take NO for an answer. On June 30, 2022 (unit 1) and September 30, 2022 (unit 4), PNM closed/will finally close the 50-year-old coal-fired generation plant. Thus PNM has now closed ¾ of the SJGS plant and will permanently close the remainder on September 30th of this year. As of then, PNM will no longer be incurring the operating costs that have gone into rates for half a century.

In light of the closure, the PRC unsurprisingly ordered PNM to remove SJGS costs from rates, via a “rate credit.” Before the closures, those costs were approximately $98.3 M per year. Yet PNM still wants to collect this money as if the plant were operating! The Hearing Examiners and the PRC rightfully said no, you gotta credit that $98.3 million back to customers. (Watch for your credit on your monthly bill beginning this month, and even bigger jump in October!)

It is more than surprising – indeed it is astonishing – that PNM would appeal this Order to the Supreme Court and claim that the PRC’s requirement that PNM refrain from imposing millions of dollars of phantom and duplicate costs on its ratepayers will cause PNM irreparable harm and presents an emergency that this Court should address immediately. PNM’s position, and its latest declaration of “emergency” is beyond belief!

There is NO entitlement that PNM is being denied. PNM would not be losing revenue it would be making pure profit.

Is this PNM's internal rallying cry: “We have reinterpreted the ETA and have discovered that closing San Juan converts it from a coal plant into a gold mine?!” We hope that the New Mexico Supreme Court will reject PNM's plea to stay the PRC's Order to implement the rate credit.

Yesterday we filed our response to their emergency motion.

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