WASHINGTON – On Sunday, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act, sending it to the House for a vote after a year of negotiations and decades of grassroots organizing that pressured elected officials to take action on climate change. Since 2020, Common Defense members in Arizona and West Virginia have been communicating with Sens. Manchin and Sinema to convince them to support a bold plan to address the climate crisis, and while this bill is not perfect, it does represent a huge victory for these veteran activists. The IRA is a landmark piece of legislation and represents the most significant climate and clean energy investment in the nation’s history. It will fight climate change, lower energy costs, develop a domestic critical minerals production and recycling industry, and create a new clean energy economy. While these investments are crucial in reducing emissions, the bill still doesn’t go far enough to protect frontline communities and still keeps the door open for devastating fossil fuel projects.
“The climate and clean energy investments in the IRA could not have happened without the relentless grassroots organizing from groups across the country who put climate justice front and center. As veterans, we applaud this bill as a victory to jumpstart the clean energy industry and provide millions of high-quality union jobs for un- and under-employed veterans uniquely equipped to serve in this new clean energy economy. The bill also provides much-needed investments in rural electrification, workforce development, transportation access, and community resilience–including funds to protect coastal communities and prevent wildfires. It’s truly historic, and the House must waste no time in passing the IRA.” said Veteran and Climate Justice Director for Common Defense Perry O’Brien. “In the last few months, Common Defense veterans, especially in West Virginia, played a crucial role in amplifying grassroots energy and pressuring Senator Joe Manchin to support federal climate legislation, and we are ecstatic to finally see a bill come to fruition.”
“We met half a dozen times with Senator Manchin and his staff, and each time we came with our stories–stories of veterans struggling in low-wage jobs, or trying to escape the coal mines. West Virginia has the highest veteran poverty rate in the country, and this bill will bring much-needed clean energy jobs for our vets. The IRA will be a gamechanger,” said West Virginia Veteran and Climate Justice Organizer Lakiesha Lloyd. “We want to thank Senator Manchin for ensuring the IRA passage. The IRA is truly a historical step forward. However, we must recognize that there is still much to do. We have a long way to go to ensure a renewable energy future where West Virginia veterans will not only survive but thrive. Thus, we’ll keep organizing–this bill is the step we need on our path to full climate justice.”
“Veterans are bridge builders for climate justice, pressuring the Senate, House, and public to invest in climate action and good green jobs for vets. The IRA does this–but it’s only the beginning of our climate justice work, and we must continue to support frontline communities who remain in the crosshairs of corporate greed, such as the San Carlos Apache Tribe and their work to save Oak Flat,” said Arizona Veteran and Organizing Director Joanna Sweatt.
“We cannot stand idly by while working-class BIPOC communities and Indigenous lands are devastated. New pipeline projects would directly harm American families, including veteran and military families who have already been subjected to toxic pollution, and take us backward in the fight against climate change. The IRA is a step in the right direction, but it is only a step. The veterans of Common Defense will continue organizing and advocating until all people, regardless of where they live or how much money they make, live in safe, healthy, just, and thriving communities.”