After decades of inaction, Congress is taking on climate change. The U.S. Senate on Sunday passed the Inflation Reduction Act addressing climate change, health care and taxes.
The House of Representatives is expected to take up the measure this week. If it passes, it would be the biggest investment in climate change in the history of the U.S. government, said Matthew Choi, Washington correspondent for the Texas Tribune.
“It’s a really big deal. It incentivizes people to transition over to using renewable energy. It also includes a lot of health care provisions that expand health care access for lower income people,” Choi said. “And it enforces tax collections to make sure that revenues are actually coming in as they should. And that is supposed to help reduce the deficit and also pay for a lot of the provisions that are in this in this package.”
One of the bill’s provisions is a methane fee that charges a fee over time on emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, in the oil and gas sector.
“The Permian Basin in Texas is responsible for a massive percentage of American methane emissions, and this fee has gone through a lot of iterations. There’s been a lot of complaints of the oil and gas industry about it, but Democrats introduced a lot of edits to make sure that it’s a bit more palatable,” Choi said. “They offered millions upon millions of dollars for oil and gas producers to help them come a bit more in compliance before they ever have to be charged a fee. And also, they offered a provision to make it kind of an opt-out of the fee in case EPA introduces its own standards to kind of regulate methane emissions.”
» MORE: Fossil fuel operations in the Permian Basin are releasing large amounts of methane
Choi said Republicans in the Senate, including John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, hate the measure.
“They say it’s actually a misnomer [that] would actually increase inflation through a lot more government spending. They say it would inhibit innovation in the health care and pharmaceutical industry by lowering drug prices,” Choi said.
“If you really look out at the big picture, this bill is, in essence, the distillation, the final incarnation of President Biden’s campaign agenda. It is everything that he wanted to do from day one that has gone through this kind of twisting road through Congress and has ended up at this bill. It’s kind of his signature legislation. And, you know, Republicans since day one have been saying, ‘we’re not going to be for this, we’re not going to support this. This is just philosophically, you know, another iteration of Democrats’ tax and spending folly.’”
Democratic leadership is confident they can get the entire House caucus around the legislation, Choi said.
“There are still a couple of members who are not quite ready, last I checked in with them, to voice their support for it: Representatives Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez from South Texas still have some reservations over the methane fee, and they say that they’re going to be looking closely into the bill now that it’s passed the Senate,” Choi said. “But, I mean, Democratic leadership is still in a celebratory mood, so they’re pretty confident that’s going to get across.”