Local impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act: Possible grants for environmental causes

The U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act Saturday night 51-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris who serves as the tie-breaking vote in what was a 50-50 deadlock between Democrats and Republicans.

Not only does it reduce prescription drug prices and forces corporations making over $1 billion a year to pay a minimum income tax of 15%, but it could bring a lot of money to Washington State for environmental causes.

It’s mainly a pool of grant money that people, businesses and local governments will have to apply for.

It would provide grants to reduce air pollution at seaports, something the ports in Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia have been working on for some time. It could add more opportunities for shore power for large vessels like cruise ships, so they don’t have to spew exhaust to keep generators running.

It will also provide money to improve the electrical grid, including more long-distance high voltage transmission lines.

"This is a big problem in Washington state, being able to move energy around," says Todd Myers, the Director of Environment at the Washington Policy Center. "One of the biggest risks of blackouts that we currently have is we can't [get] more electricity from where it's generated to where it’s needed."

There’s money to develop more sustainable high-octane aviation fuel, such as renewable biofuels. Washington State University has become an industry leader in researching alternative aviation fuels.

There are rebates of up to $7,500 for the purchase of a new electric vehicle and tax credits for buying a used one.  The rebates are income-specific and are targeting lower-income families. Myers says the money could run out quickly.

"The Congressional budget office says this will only provide funding for $11,000 for a variety of reasons, so it really does nothing in that area," he says. "By comparison, Washington State wants to have one million EV’s on the road by the end of the decade."

There’s also rebates of up to $14,000 toward making your home more energy efficient. Again, the rebates are income specific with low-income families as the target.

There’s an extension of billions of dollars worth of tax credits for renewable energy like hydroelectric, solar, wind, biomass, and even producing energy from a garbage dump.

None of this is free. Eventually, taxpayers will end up paying for the $1 billion package. But since Washington State is already doing many of the same projects the act is incentivizing, state taxpayers may end up paying more than what they will get pack in the form of funding local projects. 

"It’s more likely that we will be an exporter, that we will pay more than what we get back," says Myers.  "Typically, that's the case on average with Washington state."

The House of Representatives is expected to pass the Senate approved bill as soon as Friday and then President Joe Biden will sign it.