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Energy & Environment — Biden touts climate action in national address

The Hill logo The Hill 2/8/2023 Rachel Frazin
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President Biden pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act’s climate provisions in his annual State of the Union address. Meanwhile, California and six other states reached a stalemate on the Colorado River, and a report warns millions of Americans are in range of a cancer-causing gas.  

This is Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk.

Biden takes climate victory lap in State of the Union  

President Biden touted the historic climate investments in the Inflation Reduction Act, the environmental and infrastructure spending he signed into law last year, in his second State of the Union address Tuesday night.  

“The Inflation Reduction Act is … the most significant investment ever to tackle the climate crisis, lowering utility bills, creating American jobs, and leading the world to a clean energy future,” Biden said in his prepared remarks.  

The president presented the law as an investment in resilience to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.  

  • “I’ve visited the devastating aftermaths of record floods and droughts, storms and wildfires,” Biden said.
  • “In addition to emergency recovery from Puerto Rico to Florida to Idaho, we are rebuilding for the long term: new electric grids able to weather the next major storm, roads and water systems to withstand the next big flood, clean energy to cut pollution and create jobs in communities too often left behind.”  

Going off-script: “We’re still going to need oil and gas for a while, but there’s more to do,” Biden said, with the reference to fossil fuels drawing some applause.  

  • Biden presented action on the climate crisis as a moral obligation on the part of older generations and the wealthy, saying “we pay for these investments in our future by finally making the wealthiest and the biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share.”  
  • The Inflation Reduction Act marked the most significant climate bill in U.S. history, putting about $369 billion toward climate action. The Biden administration has set a target of reducing carbon emissions by half from 2005 levels by the end of the decade.  

But wait, there’s more: Biden also hailed steps taken outside of the IRA, including plans to replace all lead pipes in the U.S., which were included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  

“We’re replacing poisonous lead pipes that go into 10 million homes and 400,000 schools and childcare centers, so every child in America can drink clean water,” he said, referencing cases of delayed development and brain damage detected in cases like the water supply contamination in Flint, Mich.  

The president’s guests to the address included Deanna Branch, a Milwaukee community activist who has spearheaded a campaign to replace lead pipes after her son fell victim to lead poisoning.  

Read more about the address here.  

California plays ‘hardball’ over Colorado River

A multistate quest to protect a dwindling Colorado River has devolved into a high-stakes battle pitting California against its neighbors.  

At odds are two dueling proposals as to how seven states should apportion critical consumption cuts that could help save the lifeblood of the Western United States. 

Despite engaging in months of negotiations, the states failed to produce a unified agreement by the Jan. 31 deadline stipulated by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation.  

  • Instead, they offered two competing proposals: one from California and one from the six other basin states.  
  • “There need to be some long-term solutions here to reduce water supply, and there’s a lot of money to do it,” David Hayes, a former climate policy adviser to President Biden, told The Hill.  

What could have been: The negotiating parties could have gotten together to discuss how best to use such funds “to forge a new future,” added Hayes, who is now a lecturer at Stanford Law School.  

“Basically, now that’s an opportunity that will be lost,” he added, with the Bureau of Reclamation expected to publish its own proposal in the spring.  

“It really looks like there’s a fundamental difference,” said Sharon Megdal, director of the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center.  

Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.  

14M live within 5 miles cancer-causing emissions

Emissions of a colorless, carcinogenic gas produced by facilities that sterilize medical equipment disproportionately affect low-income and minority neighborhoods, but pose a risk to over 14 million Americans, according to a report released Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  

Ethylene oxide is largely produced by commercial sterilizers, which tend to be located in buildings that do not look like the average American’s image of large industrial facilities, to the point that people are often unaware they share a neighborhood with them, according to Darya Minovi, a senior researcher at the group and the report’s author.  

  • “That’s particularly the case with commercial sterilizers. It might not necessarily be the case with some of the larger chemical manufacturing facilities that emit ethylene oxide and also a number of other substances, but commercial sterilizers often just look like large warehouses,” she told The Hill in an interview.
  • “They don’t have very large stacks, it’s not clear what’s going on inside the facility, and ethylene oxide is of course, a colorless gas, so you might not even be aware that it’s being emitted.”  

Compounding the issue, she noted, many of the emissions are so-called fugitive emissions, those produced unintentionally through leaking valves or equipment.  

Of 104 facilities analyzed by the group, about 14.2 million people live within five miles of one, and there are 10,000 schools and child care facilities within the same radius.

Those near child care facilities, Minovi noted, pose a particular hazard because ethylene oxide “is a mutagen meaning that breathing it can damage your cells’ DNA, and kids’ cells are dividing more rapidly than adults’ do,” she said.  

Read more about the report here.  


The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing titled “Dependence on Foreign Adversaries: America’s Critical Minerals Crisis”  


  • The World’s Largest Carbon Capture Plant Gets a Second Chance in Texas (Bloomberg)  
  • Fighting Climate Change Was Costly. Now It’s Profitable. (The Atlantic)  
  • Renewables are on track to satiate the world’s appetite for electricity (The Washington Post)  
  • Brazil launches operation to drive illegal miners from Yanomami lands (The Guardian)  
  • Texas’ teacher pension fund divested from investment firms accused of “boycotting” oil and gas industry (The Texas Tribune)  


❄️ Lighter click: Snow joke

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

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