Energy & Environment — Biden mulls climate emergency declaration

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President Biden is considering declaring a climate emergency, though he is not expected to do so this week.

We’ll look ahead to Biden’s speech in Massachusetts on Wednesday and also examine gas prices, which have fallen under $4.50 per gallon nationally.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Subscribe here.

Biden to announce other climate actions Wednesday

President Biden will make a climate announcement on Wednesday, but will not declare a climate emergency this week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.

  • What they’re saying: “He’s going to take, as I said, additional climate actions in that vein tomorrow, and he’s going to continue — he’s not going to just stop with the actions of tomorrow, but I would not plan [an] announcement this week on [a] national climate emergency,” Jean-Pierre told reporters during a briefing.

  • “Everything’s on the table. It’s just not going to be this week on that decision,” Jean-Pierre said, adding that if the administration does declare the emergency it would unlock a certain “pot of funding,” but she didn’t give many specifics.

“Declaring a public health emergency is very different from declaring a climate emergency. Each unlocks a different set of priorities and a different pot of funding,” the White House spokeswoman said, contrasting the potential for an abortion emergency.

Some intrigue: Earlier in the day, two sources told The Hill that an emergency declaration could come as soon as Wednesday — the same day that Biden is expected to discuss climate during a trip to Massachusetts.

One of those sources later told The Hill that while the White House had previously planned to declare the emergency as soon as Wednesday, it later advised that it would not do so on that day.

Read more on Biden’s consideration of an emergency declaration here

AN APPETITE IN THE SENATE

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) called on President Biden to use “the full powers of the executive branch” on climate, following Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) declaration that he would not back climate spending in a reconciliation bill.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Monday, Merkley called on Biden to explore options ranging from declaring a national emergency on climate to continued use of the Defense Production Act.

He also called for “an end to greenlighting new fossil fuel projects and a beginning to greenlighting every possible renewable energy project, from manufacturing solar panels to the deployment of renewable energy to energy conservation.”

Read more here

Gas prices drop below $4.50 per gallon

Gas prices in the United States are easing despite high inflation and the continued Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the average cost per gallon hitting a two-month low on Tuesday.

  • Data from AAA showed a $4.495 per gallon national average gas price on Tuesday, the lowest since mid-May. South Carolina was the only state on the AAA’s map that showed gas prices under $4.

  • Prices are down more than 50 cents from their June high, when prices reached about $5.02 per gallon.

The drop in prices comes as the nation still grapples with high inflation.

Labor Department data released last week showed that inflation had increased more than 9 percent from a year ago as the country navigates lingering supply chain issues and exacerbations due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Read more here from The Hill’s Caroline Vakil

States have role to play as federal climate push stalls

State governments could play a major role in cutting the nation’s planet-warming emissions, especially with Congress unable to unify on any major actions, according to public policy experts still stinging from Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) decision last week to back away from action.

While Manchin’s decision was a serious setback that likely dooms any action on climate by Congress, it doesn’t mean meaningful cuts to emissions can’t be made. 

It’s just that they’ll have to come from state, county and city governments. 

Sam Ricketts, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, said he sees a few different areas where states can step up their ambition. 

Like what? These include requiring shifts to electric vehicles, mandating clean energy use for electricity and electrifying new buildings. 

State and city governments working with private business can get a “good amount” of the way toward President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, said Nathan Hultman, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland who has served in the Biden and Obama administrations. 

“It would be a few percentage points away, probably, if it’s just cities, states and businesses,” he said.

Hultman said states might see “pressure from their own constituencies to revisit” their climate policies, including to “crank up the number” as a result of new scientific information and the political situation.

Cities, too: Madison, Wis., Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway (D) told The Hill that her city was working on initiatives including subsidizing solar energy, requiring buildings to report their energy use in the hopes of improving efficiency and partnering with a local utility to put chargers in public parking garages. 

But state actions could limit what even mayors want to do on climate change. State laws can prevent mayors from taking certain actions, Rhodes-Conway said. 

“In order to reduce the emissions footprint of buildings, we need to be making our new building stock as energy efficient and as low emission as possible, and right now, we can’t require that in the city of Madison because we’re preempted on building codes,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Read more about the role of cities and states here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Lake Mead forecast: Southwest should brace for more water cuts from Colorado River (CNN)

  • Australia’s environment in ‘shocking’ decline, report finds (BBC News)

  • Russia seen restarting gas exports from Nord Stream 1 on schedule (Reuters)

  • Where Dalí Once Painted the Sea, Wind Turbines Are Set to Rise (The New York Times)

  • Conservation groups offer alternate plan for Colorado wolf reintroduction that limits killing after livestock losses (The Colorado Sun)

ICYMI

📹 Lighter click: Very emu-sing.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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