Powering Change: Federal Funding for State Programs

Two federal acts create environmental and clean energy funding opportunities for Oregon

On Nov.15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. Less than a year later — on August 16, 2022 — he signed the Inflation Reduction Act. While the two acts have different focuses, they have created tremendous opportunities for states and their programs to access federal funding. Greg Dotson, a faculty member in the University of Oregon’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center and leader of the Energy Law and Policy Project, worked on both of these bills while serving as the Democratic chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“It’s tremendously satisfying to be a part of these things, particularly the Inflation Reduction Act, which is the most significant climate change bill that Congress has ever passed,” Dotson tells Eugene Weekly.

Through tax measures and grants, the IRA provides $369 billion in funding “to take the most aggressive action ever — ever, ever, ever — in confronting the climate crisis,” as Biden said during a speech at the signing of the bill. The bill also supports health and medical programs. 

The IIJA was introduced by Oregon’s own (now retired) Rep. Peter DeFazio in June 2021. When the law was signed later that year, it allowed more than 380 federal programs to access $1.2 trillion for infrastructure spending. In the Building a Better America guidebook that was made for the bill, Biden says the bill will “make historic and significant strides” on the climate crisis, and that funding will help build electric vehicle charging stations across the country, aid in the manufacturing of wind farms and solar panels, and invest in resilience programs to prepare for future wildfires, hurricanes and other weather disasters.

“Oregon is very well-positioned among the states because they already did the hard work of adopting important climate policies prior to Congress’ new laws,” Dotson says, citing Oregon’s Clean Energy Targets bill, which states that by 2040 Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp and electricity service suppliers, must be 100 percent emission-free. 

There are multiple ways to gain access to federal funding. Tax incentives can be motivators for private citizens to install hot water pumps or buy an electric vehicle. Dotson also notes that Congress also created rebates for people who may not greatly benefit from tax credits so that motivation isn’t lost. For nontaxable entities, like Native tribes, municipalities and nonprofits, Congress has created the ability to get direct payments of the tax credit amounts. 

Grants and loans also create access for state programs. The Oregon Department of Energy has applied for $5.6 million for the U.S. Department of Energy’s IIJA State Energy Program which will help ODOE plan, research and analyze how to promote programs that support energy security and efficiency as well as create renewable and resilient energy programs. 

The Grid Resilience State and Tribal Formula Grants will distribute $2.3 billion over five years across the country to help “strengthen and modernize America’s power grid against wildfires, extreme weather and other natural disasters that are exacerbated by the climate crisis,” according to the Grid Deployment Office. This June, Oregon got access to almost $20 million, which is now available for projects across the state. 

The Oregon Department of Energy has created an Excel spreadsheet that is available on its website and which shows different types of energy-related IRA and IIJA funding opportunities. There are also opportunities for public engagement, and people can subscribe to emails for federal funding updates on the ODOE website. 

“The job’s not done, but now we have the resources to do it,” Dotson says. “The hope is that because those resources are there, the incentives are there, people will come forward with projects and make the investments.”