Biden’s Treasury Secretary Calls ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ ‘The Most Important Climate and Energy Law in U.S. History’ During Visit To Roxbury Community College

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By Alison Kuznitz
State House News Service

Looking to strengthen the commonwealth’s standing to compete for millions of federal dollars, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey told U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen about her administration’s efforts so far to secure the coveted resources to spur new jobs in the clean energy sector and lower costs for Massachusetts residents.

Yellen traveled to Boston on Wednesday, January 10 to tour the Center for Smart Building Technology at Roxbury Community College, which she described as a model for other emerging programs across the country supported by federal government investments.

The initiatives help reach the nation’s climate and energy security goals while saving money for schools, businesses, and families, said Yellen, who primarily highlighted the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act during her visit. Yellen described the legislation as “the most important climate and energy law in U.S. history.” 

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Joe Biden in 2022, features grants, loans, rebates, and incentives to promote clean energy, as well as programs to support communities that are “often overlooked and underserved,” according to a White House guidebook.

Yellen said Roxbury Community College’s energy projects, including geothermal wells and a solar panel canopy over a parking lot, have resulted in savings of up to $800,000 per year. Roxbury Community College has also slashed its carbon footprint by 5 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, Yellen said.

“Well, let me say that being here today is inspiring,” Yellen said.

The Inflation Reduction Act makes it possible to achieve a “clean energy future” for Massachusetts residents and middle-class Americans, she said.

Healey’s office estimates Massachusetts is eligible to capture more than $17 billion in federal money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act.  (“CHIPS” stands for Creating Helpful Incentives To Produce Semiconductors.”)

Yellen’s visit comes a day before the Massachusetts Senate is slated to take up a revised version of the governor’s proposal to use interest earned from the state’s massive rainy day fund to help the Healey administration compete for those federal dollars.

Healey said the state’s Federal Funds and Infrastructure Office, created in October 2023, ensures that “we are maximizing all of our applications and able to get after it,” Healey said.

“We have strong applications in. Though I don’t want to put the thumb on the scale at all, I will say we do have an application in for EPA’s Solar for All program, which is going to provide residential solar to an estimated 80,000 homes, low-income and marginalized community homes,” Healey said.

She added: “We’re just grateful to have the support that we received. We look forward to making the very, very most of it.”

Healey boasted about her administration’s focus on climate change, including investments for building de-carbonization projects, but she said about 13,000 workers are needed to support a clean energy “revolution.”

“Our approach, the state’s approach, the city’s approach, aligns with the approach of the Biden-Harris administration, and we are grateful to and want to note the incredible power of the Inflation Reduction Act, which has been a boon for our state,” Healey said. “It’s enabled us to further opportunities to create great, good-paying jobs for our people, pathways into those jobs, some of that we talked about and lived here today.”

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said she hoped the events at Roxbury Community College — which included a tour featuring a new workforce development program and a closed-to-press roundtable with business leaders — conveyed to Yellen the scope of partnerships here across levels of government.

“Boston is the proof of what we can get done when we have the resources to bring everyone in our community into the work, and we want to use every opportunity to help nationally but also to make sure that that reaches every corner of our city, as well,” said Wu, who also reflected on the future potential of those partnerships.

“It’s really transformed the environment for us to be able to layer everything together really strategically, coordinate across city, state, and federal government,” Wu said. She added, “We’re just really stretching every single dollar so much more, and the governor and her administration have really gone in with us — every incentive that’s available is multiplied exponentially when city, state, and federal all double down in the same spaces together.”

During their tour at Roxbury Community College, Yellen, Healey, and Wu explored smart building technology, including control boxes, as students from a new “Building Fundamentals” program explained their training. The control boxes are similar to upgrades seen in smart homes, and they enable users to control functions like heating and plumbing, the students explained.

The 100-hour program teaches students about smart building technology and energy efficiency, equipping them with four certificates that will help them lands jobs with a starting salary of $60,000-$70,000, said Kat James, assistant director. James also pointed out heat pumps and equipment that students use to learn about performing energy audits.

Healey used the tour as an opportunity to inform Yellen about the state’s MassReconnect program that allows students 25 and older to attend community college for free. Healey told Yellen that “our community colleges and programs like this are integral” as the commonwealth looks to fill new climate sector jobs and train talent.

“I’m not suggesting anyone here is over 25,” Healey said jokingly to the students.

 

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