Yale Daily News

The recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act may bring a raft of benefits for New Haven to advance its climate initiatives.  

The Inflation Reduction Act is the largest climate spending legislation in United States history, aimed at bringing investment towards clean energy and carbon offset initiatives and expanding access to healthcare and prescription medication. To take advantage of the Act, the Elm City government plans on creating a climate office to ensure that residents are aware of the opportunities available, and are able to take advantage of the rebates, jobs, tax accounts and discounts. 

“It’s obviously a historic investment in a climate response,” Giovanni Zinn, the city engineer, said. “New Haven declared a climate emergency with our Board of Alders and it’s very heartening to see the federal government investing so much in what is such a critical issue of our time.”

In September 2019, the New Haven Board of Alders unanimously declared a climate emergency for the city.

The legislation will include rebates to decrease high energy costs and provide customers with resources to afford technologies that aim to lower greenhouse gas emissions and energy prices. For example, the bill supports consumers purchasing new electric appliances or retrofitting their homes with more energy-efficient systems, a press release from Senator Richard Blumenthal’s office (D-CT) said. 

The Blumenthal statement estimated that the Act’s investments in domestic clean energy manufacturing in both urban and rural communities will also create millions of new jobs nationwide.

“The Inflation Reduction Act is history-making and record-setting. This bill will save money, it will save lives, and it will help save the planet,” Blumenthal wrote.

Five million dollars in city funding was approved to establish a climate office to help New Haveners utilize these Inflation Reduction Act funds. 

A climate director will be in charge of the office, with a support staff to help. The position will soon be posted and open for applications, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said. 

“The climate director will be, in some ways, like a conductor of a choir, where they’re helping support different department heads,” Elicker said in an interview. 

Elicker said that he would like to see the New Haven Public Works Department utilize funds from the Act to explore options for electrifying its fleet of trash trucks. He envisioned the future climate director helping support the initiative, because the director of public works does not have a background in climate policy.

“We’re about to post the positions [for the climate office], and are encouraging anyone that’s interested in applying for the positions to apply,” Elicker said. “This new office will help us better coordinate and have a larger impact.”

Elicker said that the Act will prove valuable to New Haven in reducing the high asthma rates and extreme weather events afflicting the city. 

According to a White House fact sheet, the Inflation Reduction Act is projected to reduce pollution, resulting in 100,000 fewer asthma attacks in America in 2030. 

“That’s the real goal here,” Elicker said. “And that’s in the long term, that’s the real benefit to everyone.”

Chris Schweitzer, director of the New Haven Climate Movement, said that he was happy that the provisions of the Act supported a faster transition to clean energy and electrification and would reduce fossil fuel pollution. 

However, he added that he thought far more climate action was needed at all levels given the dire nature of the climate crisis.

New Haven could promote policies to move businesses and organizations to clean energy or less energy use and install solar panels on city property to further help limit energy costs and carbon pollution, he said. 

City climate staff could specifically help New Haveners get “green jobs,” or employment in fields related to green energy, Schweitzer said. They could also help coordinate electrification and energy efficiency work in city buildings, or could help lead the creation of city-wide bike networks and safe streets, he added.

Projections from a White House fact sheet estimate that over 60,000 Connecticut households will install rooftop solar panels as a result of the Act. It may also bring an estimated $630 million of investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage to the Constitution State by 2030. The investment will include tax credits to create new jobs and add to the 41,458 Connecticut workers who were employed in the green energy sector in 2021.

Millions of Connecticut residents will also be eligible for electric vehicle purchase discounts — up to $7,500 for new EVs and $4,000 for used EVs.

These incentives on electric vehicle purchases come after Connecticut submitted a state plan to use funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to build electric vehicle charging stations along its highways. 

President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Charlotte Hughes reports on climate and environmental issues in New Haven. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, she is a freshman in Branford College majoring in English.