WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced modest steps to address climate change after his legislative agenda to combat the crisis faced a setback in Congress.
The actions come as lawmakers appear unlikely to move on climate change.
Sen. Joe Manchin, DW. Go., last week 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.
- Announcement stop: Biden announced his new executive actions during a visit to a former coal-fired power plant 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 also 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 2021 study.
- wind energy: In the latest step the administration has taken to expand offshore wind energy, the Interior Department is proposing areas in the Gulf of Mexico for wind turbines. Biden also wants the department to move ahead on wind energy development off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Biden will announce additional executive actions over the next few weeks, according to Gina McCarthy, the president’s national climate adviser.
One potential action is declaring a climate emergency, which would unlock new federal resources.
Biden did not take that step Wednesday, McCarthy said, because he wanted to be able 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.”
Biden’s announcement comes after he’s faced increased 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” and would issue climate executive actions.
If Biden announces a climate emergency in the coming weeks, he will allow the federal government to use certain funding to address climate change.
Declaring an emergency is one of the top steps the Congressional Progressive Caucus wants Biden to take to address the issue.
What they are saying
John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said Tuesday that climate change is “a national security issue.” He noted that infrastructure is already being impacted by climate change, such as millions of dollars being invested in Norfolk naval bases to improve infrastructure being impacted by rising sea levels.
The head of the American Clean Power Association applauded Biden’s actions to boost the offshore wind industry. But Association CEO Heather Zichal 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_