LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Sunday, the U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill is more than the title implies; in addition to handing larger corporations the bill on tax issues and boosting the funding of the IRS, the act centers a large amount of effort around climate change and ecological issues. The specifics, which have been broken down at length, include higher costs for fossil fuel productions, incentives for renewable energy investment, and relief for communities facing a high burden from the effects of pollution.
In the North Country of New York, a bill bolstering environmental grants is a guiding light. The bill promises extended tax credits for investment in wind, solar and geothermal technologies, and for residential clean energy, including rooftop solar panels and small wind energy systems. Tax credits of up to $7,500 will be offered toward the purchase of electric vehicles, under certain stipulations.
That’s big in a place like Queensbury. The Lake George-adjacent town covers a large amount of Warren County, including many rural and secluded homes and neighborhoods. In 2019, it became a registered Climate Smart Community, assigning a task force that had already worked with NYSERDA as a Clean Energy Community.
Being a Climate Smart Community has involved plenty of action from the town. Queensbury has taken greenhouse gas inventory, developed climate action plans, and gathered data on emissions. Last year, town efforts in clean electric and solar power gained special recognition. When asked to comment on how the goals of the Inflation Reduction Act fit into what’s happening locally, town supervisor John Strough’s answer was simple.
“Reduce deficit, lower energy costs, cleaner energy, reduce carbon emissions, allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices,” he said, listing some bill priorities. “Where’s the downside?”
Zooming out from town to county, the Warren County EDC sees familiar ground in the bill. The EDC works to encourage new and relocating businesses to call Warren County home, promoting tax and energy incentives to do so. The county is also the gateway to the Adirondack Park – something that EDC President Jim Siplon sees as forever relevant.
“One of the things that’s struck me since I came into this position is that we’ve always been misplaced in the traditional world of business and operations,” Siplon said. “90% of Warren County sits behind the blue line (the border of the Adirondack Park.) Us chasing an Amazon distribution center was never going to be the right thing.”
The Inflation Reduction Act includes plans for 10 years of tax credits for industries that invest in emission-free electricity sources, including turbines, solar panels and battery storage. That decade-long timeline compares to previous credits for wind and solar power that have typically expired after 1-2 years.
In addition to bolstering electric power, the bill targets natural gas, imposing a fee on methane leaking from oil and gas wells and pipelines. Another set of tax credits – for companies that capture and bury carbon dioxide emissions from smokestacks – is also being expanded.
In Warren County and the Adirondacks, it comes as good news. Siplon said that the majority of the county lacks a natural gas pipeline, meaning that it lines up with those goals nicely. The county is less likely to suffer from parts of the bill that impose fines and fees for systems that it aims to age out – because they were never aged in.
Meanwhile, another big target for the EDC remains relocation. The organization runs an outreach campaign based around remote workers who have chosen to stay remote following the COVID-19 pandemic for a variety of reasons. In a discussion of green industry in the North Country, Siplon doesn’t leave those people out.
“The greenest opportunity we have is to net new, young professionals to move here. These are people whose jobs are essentially transportable. They are the greenest business we can attract, because the true workplace impact is contained within the third bedroom in their house.”
That blue line casts a large radius around the 6 million acres of the Adirondack Park. Stewardship groups and nonprofits throughout the park work to advocate for better environmental treatment throughout the forests, lakes and communities across the park.
One of those nonprofits is the Adirondack Council, an organization that has been working within the park since the 1950s. The council sent out a breakdown this week applauding parts of the Inflation Reduction Act that, it says, mean a lot for the Adirondacks – even if there’s still a long way to go.
“The bill isn’t perfect, but it is far better than anything Congress has done to date to combat climate change and build a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren,” said council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “We commend Senate Majority Leader Schumer for his persistence and grit in getting this deal completed. We hope it is approved and implemented quickly. We will continue to urge Congress and the executive to build upon this strong foundation.”
In addition to tax credits, the bill sets aside $20 billion in programs aimed at the reduction of emissions from livestock and agricultural soils. More funds would be used for forest conservation, as well as tree planning within urban places.
The council also highlighted the funds coming for electric vehicle investment. An up to $7,500 tax credit would be set aside for electric vehicle purchases, as well as $4,000 if an electric car is bought used. The bill extends past personal vehicles, to include $1 billion that could be used for zero-emission school buses, trucks and public transit buses.
Another part of the bill targets domestic manufacturing. Among Adirondack towns are factories and mills long-since put out of use. Meanwhile, increases in renewable energy will require a boost in manufacturing. $60 billion would be put aside to support clean energy manufacturing within the U.S.
While the bill makes strides, Janeway said that there’s still much work to be done. Although the Inflation Reduction Act aims to start a lot, there’s plenty that still needs to cease.
“While we acknowledge the strides made, we are concerned, along with our movement allies, about provisions for offshore drilling, carbon capture, nuclear, hydrogen, and logging on public lands,” Janeway said. “These line items continue practices that are not aligned with centering overburdened communities in decision-making or transitioning away from fossil fuels. These credits can be more effectively invested in renewable energy generation and other programs that ensure an energy transition that protects people and addresses climate change.”