The administration of President Joe Biden on Friday announced it would restore protections under the Endangered Species Act, a law credited with saving iconic animals like the gray wolf and bald eagle, which were loosened by his predecessor Donald Trump.
Conservation groups welcomed the move but said they were concerned about how long the reversal might take.
“The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is committed to working with diverse federal, Tribal, state and industry partners to not only protect and recover America’s imperiled wildlife but to ensure cornerstone laws like the Endangered Species Act are helping us meet 21st century challenges,” said the agency’s Martha Williams.
The executive branch doesn’t have the power to change an act of Congress, but under Trump the protections for plants and wildlife were tweaked in key ways.
They included removing a rule that automatically conveys the same protections to threatened species and endangered species, and allowing information on economic impact to be gathered when making determinations on how wildlife is listed.
The FWS now proposes to undo those changes, saying it would formulate new rules in the coming months.
“We are grateful the Biden administration is moving to protect the most imperiled species by reversing the Trump-era rules, but time is of the essence,” environmental law non-profit group Earthjustice said in response.
“Each day that goes by is another day that puts our imperiled species and their habitats in danger.”
The Transportation Department announced Thursday it was withdrawing part of a Trump-era rule that blocked states from setting their own tough car pollution standards, reversing actions by the Trump administration that weakened California’s ability to fight climate change.
The newly proposed rule change, which will be subject to a 30-day comment period, would restore California’s authority to set fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and SUVs, and to require car companies to sell more electric vehicles.
The agency’s action Thursday suggested the Biden administration was laying the groundwork to eventually reinstate California’s legal waiver, which was granted by the Obama administration under the authority of the 1970 Clean Air Act. The waiver had allowed the state to set stricter auto emission and fuel efficiency rules than even the federal government. That power was widely considered one of the state’s most effective weapons in the fight against climate change and air pollution.
Trump revoked California’s waiver in 2019 shortly before his administration issued a new set of fuel economy and emissions rules that were significantly weaker than the Obama standards. The change also affected the District of Columbia and the 13 states that follow California’s tighter standards.
California and nearly two dozen other states sued the administration, challenging the decision. Major auto manufacturers, including General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota, joined the lawsuit on Trump’s side in an effort to block the state’s tough fuel economy rules. They quickly abandoned the cause after President Joe Biden was elected.
“The Trump administration should never have challenged California’s legal authority to set our own vehicle emission standards,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement. “The Clean Air Act clearly gives us the right to protect the air Californians breathe and I want to thank the Biden administration for dropping this frivolous challenge.”
Biden administration proposes restoring California’s right to set car pollution rules (2021, April 23)
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President Joe Biden will announce new bans on drilling on federal lands, as well as a US-hosted climate summit in April, as part of a raft of actions that take aim at rising global temperatures.
The federal government will pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters “to the extent possible,” and review existing leases, according to a statement.
The issue was politically explosive during the election campaign, especially in the battleground state of Pennsylvania where fracking led to a natural gas boom.
The US would also pledge to conserve 30 percent of all federal land and water by 2030, part of an international push to stem biodiversity loss and confront climate change.
Other actions include establishing climate considerations as an essential element of US foreign policy and national security, resurrecting a presidential council of science advisors, directing agencies to invest in areas with deep economic ties to fossil fuels, and assisting communities disproportionately impacted by environmental harm.
A presidential memorandum on scientific integrity will direct agencies to make decisions guided by the best available evidence.
The US will further announce a US-hosted Climate Leaders’ Summit on April 22—Earth Day and also the fifth anniversary of the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement.
Almost a quarter of American carbon dioxide emissions come from energy produced on public lands, according to a government report from 2018.
The drilling generated $11.7 billion in revenue in 2019, according to official data.
The measures are therefore significant steps towards Biden’s campaign pledges to transition away from fossil fuels on the way to net zero emissions in the power sector by 2035 and the economy as a whole by 2050.
Taken together, the actions are “consistent with President Biden and Vice President Harris raising global climate ambition starting here at home,” Sherri Goodman, deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security under former president Barack Obama, told AFP.
Nonprofit Oceana has called on Biden to go further and turn the moratorium into a ban.
It released an analysis that found making offshore drilling protections permanent for unleased federal waters could prevent over 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and more than $720 billion in damages.
“By permanently protecting our coasts from dirty offshore drilling and advancing clean energy sources like offshore wind, we can simultaneously combat climate change and safeguard our clean coast economy,” said Oceana campaign director Diane Hoskins.
But the proposals have triggered a backlash from the fossil fuel industry.
“Restricting development on federal lands and waters is nothing more than an ‘import more oil’ policy,” said American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Mike Sommers.
“Energy demand will continue to rise—especially as the economy recovers—and we can choose to produce that energy here in the United States or rely on foreign countries hostile to American interests.”
David Waskow, of the World Resources Institute, said the proposed summit on April 22 is a chance for a new multilateral climate push after four years under Donald Trump.
“This will be an opportunity for the US to come to the table with others to press forward the agenda and sort of add to the drumbeat on the way to COP26,” the UN climate meeting that will be hosted in Glasgow later this year, he told AFP.
The US would also be expected to raise its Paris accord ambitions at the summit, and potentially target as much as a 50-percent reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
Biden, who will seek a green infrastructure package from Congress next month that could run up to $2 trillion or more, will face political challenges from Republicans.
But Goodman, now a senior fellow at the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program, said she saw opportunities for bipartisanship.
“Remember that states like Texas and Wyoming also have huge wind potential,” she said, adding that there was increased recognition of the realities of climate change.
“More rapid polar ice melt, sea ice retreat, collapsing permafrost and higher temperatures all underscore the importance of recognizing climate as an essential element of our foreign policy and national security planning.”
Biden to halt fossil fuel leasing on federal land (2021, January 27)
retrieved 27 January 2021
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Climate change is fueling record-breaking fires, hurricanes and floods. Global emissions of greenhouse gases are returning to pre-pandemic levels. And America—which has emitted more planet-warming gases than any other nation—has just become the only country to quit the Paris climate agreement.
President-elect Joe Biden is a few months away from inheriting a seemingly impossible situation: a country where the majority of people say they are in favor of climate action but where a divided government in Washington will complicate any efforts to do so.
If Republicans keep control of the Senate, then much of the legislation that would be needed to implement Biden’s aggressive plans to tackle climate change would likely be blocked.
But there is a huge amount that Biden can accomplish on his own. Here’s a look at five areas of environmental policy that the next president can change without so much as a phone call to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Make America drive like California, again
One of the most significant steps Biden could take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would to be reinstate tough nationwide rules for auto emissions and mileage standards that were put in place under the Obama administration and that essentially mirrored regulations already in effect in California.
These rules are important because transportation is a top source of planet-warming gases. When they were put in place, they were considered one of the nation’s most successful efforts to combat climate change.
But the Trump administration weakened those rules. Under the Trump regulations, nearly 900 million more tons of carbon dioxide are expected to be released than under the Obama-era standards, a result of less efficient cars burning an additional 78 billion gallons of fuel. The administration also revoked California’s authority to set stricter auto emissions rules than those required by the federal government.
The battle over car emissions was headed for the Supreme Court, where the conservative majority might have decided in favor of the Trump administration.
But Biden has promised to reinstate the Obama standards and make them tougher, expanding them beyond passenger vehicles and SUVs into the most polluting trucks. He’s also likely to grant California a new waiver, allowing it and the 13 other states that have adopted its standards to crack down even more on tailpipe pollution.
End new oil drilling on federal land
The president and whomever he chooses to serve as his Interior secretary will have broad authority to decide what kind of energy development should take place on land owned by the federal government. On this question, Biden has been clear—he has said he would not issue new leases for fracking on federal lands.
Biden could issue a new executive order directing the Interior Secretary to halt all oil and gas lease sales and permits. This would not block oil production that’s already taking place, but it would prevent more wells from being drilled and would allow for a gradual transition away from natural gas. The Obama administration used the same strategy to prevent the sale of new coal mining rights.
A Biden Interior Department could also impose new requirements on oil companies operating on federal land, such as a rule mandating the capture of methane from wells and other infrastructure. Methane emissions are a major contributor to global warming and have been rising sharply.
It may also be possible for Biden to unravel some of the leasing that’s been carried out under the Trump administration, which has auctioned off millions of acres of federal land. Federal judges have already intervened in some instances to suspend or void hundreds of leases because of procedural mistakes and legal violations by the Interior Department.
Experts said that a Biden administration could go further by voiding leases that have been issued, but where the land hasn’t been developed, or by buying them back.
This could affect the Trump administration plans to auction off more than 4,000 acres of federal land and mineral estate in California this December—the first lease sale in the state since 2012.
Develop the Clean Power Plan 2.0
Established under the Obama administration, the Clean Power Plan regulated greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the nation’s second-largest source of planet-warming gas. But in 2019, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency replaced this plan with a new rule designed to protect the coal industry while backing away from any meaningful emissions reductions.
Whereas the Clean Power Plan was expected to reduce emissions by about 30% by 2030, EPA projections suggest the replacement rule might reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 0.7%, or possibly not at all.
Under a Biden administration, the EPA could repeal the Trump rule without any input from the Senate. But when it comes to replacing it, many environmental advocates are hopeful that the president will decide to go further than simply re-proposing the Clean Power Plan. That’s because the Obama-era plan has been tied up in the courts and there is doubt it could survive a review by a Supreme Court that now has a conservative 6-to-3 majority.
Instead, advocates hope that Biden’s EPA will propose a more ambitious rule, one that would put the country on a path to meeting the president-elect’s goal of eliminating carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2035.
Promote climate policy through foreign policy
Biden has already said he will rejoin the Paris climate agreement, but there’s much more he could do to show the world that the United States is serious about fighting climate change.
A report from Brown University’s Climate Solutions Lab lays out a series of steps that include creating a “climate club” of countries that volunteer to reduce emissions by agreeing to set a minimum price on carbon and penalize high-emitting countries through trade measures such as tariffs.
Another proposal outlined in the report calls for Biden to work with the European Union—the largest importer of natural gas—as well as Canada and Mexico to curb methane emissions.
Declare climate change a national emergency
Some environmental advocates have said that because we are barreling toward catastrophe, Biden should invoke emergency authority to address climate change. This step would be bold—quite possibly bolder than Biden is willing to be—and it would carry major rewards and risks.
Under emergency authority, a Biden administration could use military funding to quickly move the country away from coal and gas-powered plants and toward renewable energy. He could also increase the number of electric-vehicle charging stations, require automakers to produce more electric vehicles, and accelerate the expansion of clean-energy technology—all without having to ask Congress to approve new funding.
If this sounds familiar, it might be because Trump declared a national emergency on the border in 2019 in order to access billions of dollars in funding for a border wall, which lawmakers had refused to give him. Questions over the legality of the declaration have been fought over in the cou
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