Biden, allies take climate law victory lap

By Robin Bravender, Kelsey Brugger | 08/14/2023 01:36 PM EDT

The president and his allies are marking the first birthday of the law this week as deadly disasters spur calls for more action.

President Joe Biden speaks

President Joe Biden speaks Thursday in Salt Lake City. Alex Brandon/AP Photo

President Joe Biden is hosting friends for a climate law party this week.

The president and his allies in Congress, environmental groups and the renewable energy industry are spending this week celebrating the first birthday of the massive climate law enacted last year.

They’re giving speeches across the country, hosting Zoom calls to tout investments spurred by the law, and trekking to the White House on Wednesday for a big celebration.


It’s all part of a broader campaign to raise public awareness about the law — known as the Inflation Reduction Act — after recent polling has shown much of the public knows little about it.

The celebration also comes as much of the country has been devastated by disasters fueled by climate change this summer. The Hawaiian island of Maui is reeling from a wildfire that killed more than 90 people. That’s on top of wildfire smoke and deadly heat waves that have affected large swaths of the country in recent months.

Even as the Biden administration is heralding the passage of that law one year ago, it’s facing pressure to do more to combat climate change in the wake of those and other disasters.

Some climate hawks are pushing Biden to declare a formal climate “emergency” and take additional steps to curb domestic fossil fuel production.

Biden says that, “practically speaking,” he has declared a climate emergency, pointing to the climate law and other actions he’s taken as evidence.

Top White House officials have called Biden the administration’s best messenger for selling the benefits of the climate law to the public, and this week he’ll continue making his pitch.

The president is heading to Milwaukee on Tuesday, where he plans to visit a clean energy manufacturing company and tout his economic agenda, according to the White House.

Vice President Kamala Harris is also slated to speak Tuesday about the anniversary during a trip to Seattle, where she’ll be joined by second gentleman Doug Emhoff and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

The guest list

Wednesday’s White House party marks the main event for champions of the climate law.

Last year’s event was held outdoors on the South Lawn and attended by thousands of climate advocates, who spilled out of the huge celebration to attend afterparties around town. This year’s event is expected to be much smaller.

E&E News checked in with environmental groups and other advocates to see who might be there. A handful of people confirmed attendance, including Environmental Defense Fund Executive Director Amanda Leland, longtime environmental justice leader Michele Roberts and representatives from Earthjustice.

The Council on Environmental Quality also confirmed Chair Brenda Mallory will be there.

While the party is expected to draw Democratic lawmakers, one prominent figure might not make it: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who helped write the legislation and get the bill passed.

NBC reported last week the red state Democrat was not “expected” to attend, and his office declined Monday to share his public schedule for the week.

In the past year, Manchin has sparred with the White House over the administration’s implementation of the law.

He’s particularly upset about domestic sourcing requirements for electric vehicles.

Last week, Manchin joined his fellow Democrats in praising the benefits of the law, but at the same time he used the opportunity to attack Biden’s “radical climate agenda.” Manchin, who has not announced his reelection campaign, is being challenged by the state’s Republican Gov. Jim Justice.

Others who confirmed they won’t be there include White House Permitting Council Executive Director Eric Beightel and his predecessor Christine Harada, who’s now a senior adviser on federal procurement at the Office of Management and Budget.

Climate law winners

Climate law champions outside of the government are attempting to draw attention to the investments spurred by the Inflation Reduction Act this week.

A report released Monday found that companies announced 210 major new clean energy projects in the year following the climate law’s enactment.

Those projects will create at least 74,181 new jobs and bring a minimum of $86.3 billion in new private investment to 39 states if completed, according to a report from E2, a nonpartisan group of business leaders and investors.

Big winners, according to the report: Southeast states, Republican congressional districts, and electric vehicle and battery factories.

Nearly 80 major clean energy and clean vehicle projects in the Southeast are in development or have broken ground, the report found.

Of the sectors announcing new investments under the climate law, EV and battery factory announcements led the way over the past year, the E2 report found. Those companies announced more than 130 EV and battery projects.

And “18 of the top 20 congressional districts for clean energy investments are districts represented by Republicans,” the report found.

Biden regularly jabs Republican lawmakers for supporting investments into renewable energy facilities in their districts even after they uniformly voted against the climate law’s passage and some later tried to repeal it.

Last week, Biden knocked Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) for voting against the climate law while a wind tower facility in her district is seeing benefits from the law.

Biden referred to Boebert — a vocal critic of the president — as a “very quiet Republican lady” during a speech last week in New Mexico. She “railed against” the climate law’s passage,” Biden said. “But that’s OK, she’s welcoming it now.”

Boebert shot back on social media, writing “Wishful thinking, Joe. I’m calling you out every single day and I won’t be getting more quiet about it anytime soon!”

Cabinet members hit the road

Cabinet officials are also spreading across the country this week in a push to drum up public support for the climate law.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is slated to tour a clean energy worker training center and give a speech Monday in Las Vegas.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is traveling in Alaska from Monday through Wednesday to highlight the administration’s climate and infrastructure investments.

Small Business Administrator Isabella Guzman is heading to states across the country to discuss the law’s impacts on small businesses.

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su will be in Virginia on Friday to visit a community college and to learn about the region’s “growing clean energy and resilience sectors,” according to the White House.

White House infrastructure adviser Mitch Landrieu is scheduled to travel to New York and Alabama this week to tout Biden’s economic and manufacturing policies.