(Bloomberg) -- Florida and a handful of other Republican strongholds are betting that turning down a combined $365 million set aside for them in the Inflation Reduction Act is the right political move. A dozen cities, including in their own states, were more than happy to take the cash.
The landmark $369 billion climate legislation, passed in 2022 by President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress, offered states and large metropolitan areas grants to design plans for reducing emissions and air pollution that would allow them to compete for more federal funding.
Florida, Iowa and South Dakota — all of which have Republican governors figuring prominently in the 2024 presidential election — as well as Kentucky, a coal-mining powerhouse, turned down the money. Now, it’s been reallocated to other areas.
“It’s a missed opportunity for those places where their leaders passed up the funds,” said Cathleen Kelly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “The funds are going to go to cities and states where the leadership recognizes the opportunity and is seizing on it.”
In all, states and cities so far have declined or haven’t applied for at least $365 million in guaranteed funding under various IRA programs, according to an analysis by Kelly. That doesn’t count extra opportunities to compete for additional funds to implement solar-power and other programs contained in the law, she said.
The Climate Pollution Reduction Grants program in the law that Florida, Iowa, South Dakota and Kentucky rejected offered $3 million for each state and $1 million for each of the 67 most populous metro areas in planning grants, as long as they applied for the funding.
When the four states and two metro areas turned it down, it went to 12 other places that otherwise wouldn’t have been on the list. They included Dayton, Ohio, and Iowa City, but also metro areas in the same states that spurned the money, such as Rapid City in South Dakota and Sarasota in Florida.
“I really am excited about this funding and what we can possibly do with it,” said Sara Kane, sustainability and resilience manager for Sarasota County.
Under the program, recipients will complete climate action plans and compete for a $4.6 billion pot of money to implement projects such as electrifying vehicle fleets and retrofitting buildings to reduce emissions.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, seen as a potential running mate for Donald Trump in 2024, was among those who turned down the $3 million grant.
She cited “the federal government’s wasteful spending, much of it at the behest of President Biden,” as “the single largest cause of the inflation crisis that our nation finds itself in,” according to Ian Fury, a spokesman.
Florida not only rejected the funds, but its Republican governor and 2024 presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, also signaled he intends to turn down a separate $346 million allocation from an IRA initiative known as the Home Energy Rebates program.
DeSantis rejected a $5 million grant to administer the rebates program, which would help Floridians buy energy-efficient appliances and make home energy improvements. That would provide relief on typical annual electric bills of $2,916 that are 40% higher than the national average, at a time of hotter and longer heat waves, Kelly said.
If Florida doesn’t apply for the $346 million by the Aug. 16 deadline, those funds will be reallocated to other states, according to the US Department of Energy.
Spokespeople for the Florida governor didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. Helen Aguirre Ferré, DeSantis’s former communications director and executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, has praised him on social media for “boldly” turning down the funding that critics have called “Green New Deal subsidies.”
Other states are already clamoring for the money. Democratic US Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said in a statement that his state is eager to accept its allocation and “could utilize additional funds that Florida’s governor may not accept for purely partisan reasons.”
Biden, meanwhile, is campaigning on the investment that’s already been catalyzed by the IRA, which was passed without a single Republican vote.
On Nov. 29, the president visited the Colorado factory of the world’s largest wind tower manufacturer, which is utilizing IRA tax benefits and is located in the district of Republican Representative Lauren Boebert, who opposed the law and is a staunch Trump ally.
Read More: In Deep-Red Trump Country, Voters Are Loving Biden’s Green Jobs
The environmental group Evergreen Action advocated for the mechanism in the law that allows for redirection of funds after seeing Republican-led states previously reject federal funding for high-speed rail and pass on Medicaid expansion for ideological reasons, according to Justin Balik, the organization’s state program director.
Whether the decisions to reject the funds will benefit the dissenters politically in 2024 remains to be seen.
For South Dakota, though, turning down the money cost the state an opportunity to boost its economy with clean energy projects, which would help farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs, said Guy Larson, chairman of the state’s chapter of the Sierra Club.
“Other states will gladly take the tax dollars that could have stayed here in South Dakota, and they will gain a significant advantage in pursuing these new opportunities,” Larson said.
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