As congressional path for climate change measures appears to close, Biden announces executive actions

·3 min read

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced executive actions Wednesday to address climate change after his legislative agenda faced a setback in Congress.

Biden said additional steps will follow soon, though lawmakers are unlikely to move on the issue.

Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., rejected Democrats’ plan to combat climate change and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations through a pending domestic policy package. Biden needs the backing of all 50 Democratic senators to use a legislative maneuver that prevents Republicans from blocking the package.

"This is an emergency," Biden said, hinting at a national emergency declaration he might make to unlock federal resources. "I will look at it that way."

Biden said he's "running the traps on the totality of the authority I have” and will decide soon whether to declare a climate emergency.

The latest

  • Announcement stop: Biden announced his executive actions during a visit to a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, that is becoming a manufacturing hub for cables to support the state's offshore wind industry.

  • Fighting the heat: Biden’s plan included $2.3 billion for a program that helps communities deal with heat waves, floods, wildfires and other extreme weather events.  The program prioritizes serving historically disadvantaged communities.

  • Energy bills: Biden is broadening the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program to give states more options for how to spend the federal funds to help keep low-income people cool. Those most at risk from the growing consequences of climate change are marginalized communities of Black, Latino, Indigenous and Asian Americans, who are disproportionately located near sources of pollution or lack the means to protect themselves and access health care, according to a study in 2021.    

  • Wind energy: The Interior Department is proposing areas in the Gulf of Mexico for wind turbines. Biden wants the department to move ahead on wind energy development off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

President Joe Biden speaks about climate change and clean energy at Brayton Power Station, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in Somerset, Mass.
President Joe Biden speaks about climate change and clean energy at Brayton Power Station, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in Somerset, Mass.

What's next?

Biden said he will announce additional executive actions in the coming weeks.

One potential action is declaring a climate emergency, which would allow the redirection of spending to renewable energy production.

National climate adviser Gina McCarthy said Biden wants to "outline actions, not just declare things."

"It was just important for the president to get his arms around the various threads of work that we can put together and lay them out in a way that he's comfortable with," she told reporters traveling with Biden to Massachusetts, where advocates displayed a large, red banner that read: “Declare National Climate Emergency.”

Top takeaways

Biden faces pressure from climate activists and some Democrats on Capitol Hill.

After Manchin said he would not support the domestic policy package if it had provisions for climate change, Biden said he “won't back down.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus wants Biden to declare a climate emergency.

What they are saying

  • "Our economy is at risk," Biden said Wednesday. "So we have to act."

  • "Today, Biden said that climate change is an emergency, but we are sick of watching this administration fail to treat it as such," said Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash.

  • American Clean Power Association CEO Heather Zichal applauded Biden’s actions to boost the offshore wind industry but said Biden is limited in what he can do through executive authority. “It’s clearer than ever that we will not meet our country’s targets at the speed we must without the full power of Congressional action,” Zichal said in a statement.

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Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden announces executive actions to address climate change