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Connolly Hosts Virtual Town Hall on Historic Climate Provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act

In celebration of Earth Day, Congressman Gerry Connolly hosted a roundtable discussion and town hall on the Inflation Reduction Act and the investments Congress has made in clean energy, environmental justice, and climate change mitigation. Panelists met virtually to address and answer questions on the IRA's effects on Northern Virginia communities.

In addition to Connolly, panelists included Christopher Herrington, Director of the Fairfax Country Department of Public Works and Environmental Services; Chris Leyen, Senior Policy Director at the Virginia League of Conservation Voters; Cheri Conca, Transportation and Smart Growth Program Manager for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club; Stella Koch, former chair of the Fairfax County Environmental Advisory Committee; and Sarah Karush, chapter co-leader for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Congressman Connolly began the program with a discussion of recent and ongoing effects of climate change.

“Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have grown at historically high rates," said Connolly. "Just to give you an example of the magnitude of the United States contribution since the industrial revolution around here, the US by far has been the largest single cumulative contributor of greenhouse gases, accounting for more than 22 percent. That is the equivalent of the cumulative greenhouse gases of 181 countries combined.”

“Under ideal conditions, reliably delivering these services is hard. The pandemic made it much harder. The pandemic and its very real and still lingering aftereffects on supply chains and workforce availability have been extremely difficult for us to overcome,” added Christopher Herrington. “Climate change adds entirely new challenges, especially for our flood risk reduction efforts, because here in Fairfax County, we are already seeing larger, more frequent, less predictable storms and tidal storm surges, putting more residents at greater risk of structural flood. We know we have to do things differently.

Stella Koch stated, “We designed stormwater for a certain amount of flows. We have heavier flows and they come [more] frequently. For people who think that climate change isn’t real and not here, there’s little pieces all over our lives that show it’s very real and very here. I worked for the Audubon Naturalist Society for twenty years, and the decline of songbirds is extraordinary.”

Connolly continued, “Twenty of the 22 most warm years on record have been in the last 22 years. In Virginia, Summer temperatures have risen one degree Fahrenheit since 1895, raising the risk of death from heart by about 2.5 percent.”

The conversation turned to the historic investments made in the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Fortunately, the problem has some solutions through coordinated global action but that means the US must do its part," said Connolly. "The IRA is the US down payment on combating the climate crisis. It’s a game-changer for decarbonization. It will put the US on a path to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2035 instead of the projected 25. All told, the IRA cuts emissions. It increases carbon removal by an additional 660 million metric tons by 2030, beyond what’s projected without the IRA. Figures from the Congressional Budget Office show climate energy initiatives in the IRA add up to over $400 billion in new investments over the next ten years, the largest single investment in the environment and clean energy in American history.”

Sarah Karush stated, “The IRA helps individual homeowners and consumers save money while also cutting their carbon footprint… If we were to have stayed on the trajectory we were on, we wouldn’t be getting all that close to [Paris Climate Agreement goals]. Thanks to the IRA, we are… within striking distance of our goal.”

Cheri Conca explained, “Electrifying our transportation is good for public health and climate, but it’s even more important that we reduce our reliance on single occupancy vehicles through public transportation and better bicycle and pedestrian options. To that end, I’d like to thank Congressman Connolly for being one of the strongest proponents of Metro Silver Line throughout his public service.”

Chris Leyen added, “One of the key pieces about this is that none of this is a giveaway, you have to work for it through tax credits, grants, loans, incentives to individuals, businesses, local governments, and states. One of the tricky parts is you’ve got to seize it now.”

Stella Koch noted, “The rubber hits the road at the local government. It’s where the implementation of all of this ends up occurring... We have to be nimble, we have to be willing to change, and we have to not lock ourselves into programs.”

Connolly concluded, “The IRA also acts on our commitment to equity. A key insight driving many of our investments is that federal dollars go a lot further in places that have experienced underinvestment in the private market, often due to historical and ongoing racial discrimination, including low-income and disadvantaged communities that face the greatest effects of climate change and, by the way, toxicity and pollution as well.”

To watch the full town hall, click here.
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