President Joe Biden

Environment & energy in President Biden’s first 100 days in office

Brought to you 43 days early.

Journalists are reliably fond of two things: 1) Arbitrary ways to grade politicians, like the "100 days in office" meme; and 2) scooping the competition.


Well, here's my scoop on President Biden's first 100 days when it comes to the environment.

Executive orders

On the campaign trail, Biden promised a Gatling gun's worth of Executive Orders. His Inauguration Day executive order on climate change is a veritable Russian nesting doll of presidential decrees, calling for everything from respect for science to cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In a separate letter, he re-enlisted the U.S. in the Paris Climate Accord. A week later, another multi-faceted executive order established a goal of 30 percent protection of U.S. land and waters and blocked new oil and gas leases on federal land.

House

Got omens, anyone? If climate change should be a powerful election issue anywhere, it would be Miami and the Florida Keys. Florida's 26th and 27th districts cover that turf. Scientists predict that rising seas will turn virtually all of both districts into surf by century's end. In 2018, the Republican co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Climate Caucus, Carlos Curbelo, lost his seat in the 26th to Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

In the 27th, another Climate Caucus Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, retired, clearing the way for Democrat Donna Shalala.

Both Democrats lasted only one term. While their GOP replacements have also embraced climate action, there's little overall movement in the GOP nationally. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has gently nudged the party toward taking climate change seriously, he's also helped lead the loud Republican attack against Progressive Dems' Green New Deal.

Senate

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), otherwise a strong supporter of federal action on climate change, has blocked an effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to adjust federal flood insurance rates.

FEMA wants rates that would better reflect the greatly increased risks to beachfront homes, including some of the priciest properties in the country on Long Island's coastline.

Cabinet

Deb Haaland Department of the Interior

DOI Secretary Deb Haaland swearing-in with Vice President Kamala Harris. (Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior)

Deb Haaland was sworn in this week as the first Native American cabinet member in any Administration. Her domain at the Interior Department will include the Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Her Environmental Protection Agency counterpart, Michael Regan, inherits understaffing, staff morale problems, and never-ending problems with Superfund and other cleanup programs.

At the Department of Energy, new Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has designs on a massive clean energy turnaround with a department whose budget is still two-thirds devoted to maintaining nuclear weapons or cleaning up the mess left behind by them.

States

State governorships, cabinets and legislatures have taken an abrupt turn into complete control of statehouses. According to the website Ballotpedia, 38 states are dominated by "trifectas" where both legislative houses and the governor's office are controlled by the same party" -- 23 by Republicans and 15 by Democrats.

Of the 23 Republican states, 21 have joined in efforts to sue the White House over its cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Wise Use redux

In the 1990's, the "Wise Use Movement" became a particularly fierce player in western U.S. politics, motivated by what they saw as federal overreach on control of western grazing, water, and mining rights. During the Obama Administration, similar protests led by the family of Cliven Bundy, drew a more strident, sometimes violent, pose.

Following the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, fears over a backlash to Biden's potential actions are growing.

Climate, environment and energy issues rarely dominate the headlines. In the age of COVID, there's little chance that they will.

But there's a lot happening in those "secondary" stories that can impact our lives for years to come.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. Contact Peter at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo credit: The White House

Why a “fracking refugee” is attending the global plastics treaty negotiations
Jill Hunkler is pictured in front of the Shaw Centre, where the plastic treaty negotiations are taking place. Credit: Allison Woolverton.

Why a “fracking refugee” is attending the global plastics treaty negotiations

“Fracking and building pipelines in order to create more poisonous plastic is ruining people’s lives.”

Jill Hunkler, an Ohio resident who considers herself a “fracking refugee,” is telling her family’s story at the global plastics treaty negotiations in Ottawa this week, where negotiators from about 175 countries are working to advance a treaty to address global plastic pollution.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less

​Half of the world's plastic pollution can be traced back to 56 companies​

New research shows a few multinational companies, including Philip Morris International and Coca-Cola, are major contributors to global plastic pollution, a study finds.

Sofia Quaglia reports for The Guardian.

Keep reading...Show less
Houston's toxic petrochemical exports
Credit: Louis Vest/Flickr

Opinion: Houston's petrochemical exports fuel Europe's growing plastics crisis

Europe grapples with escalating plastic pollution, driven by petrochemical imports from Texas. A recent report by Amnesty International shows how some of these imported petrochemical products are linked to environmental racism, and calls for more stringent rules to restrict the proliferation of polluting plastics.

Alysha Khambay writes in euobserver.

Keep reading...Show less
Reflexiones de la próxima generación sobre el mes de la Tierra
Credit: masplashti /Unsplash

Reflexiones de la próxima generación sobre el mes de la Tierra

HOUSTON — En homenaje al Día de la Tierra, EHNe está publicando cartas de estudiantes del octavo grado de YES Prep Northbrook Middle School en el barrio de Spring Branch, Texas, que está en el área de Houston.

Keep reading...Show less

Hydrogen industry growth lags behind U.S. climate targets

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlights the slow growth of the clean hydrogen industry, posing challenges to achieving U.S. climate goals.

Christian Robles andCarlos Anchondo report for E&E News.

Keep reading...Show less

Climate crisis fuels mosquito disease spread in Europe, expert argues

Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever are increasing in Europe due to global warming, according to an expert.

Helena Horton reports for The Guardian.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
youth climate change

"Our lives might be on the line"

Eighth graders reflect on the state of the planet.

sargassum

After 13 years, no end in sight for Caribbean sargassum invasion

Thousands of people were hurt by sargassum blooms last year in the Caribbean.

youth climate change

“We should take care of what is precious to us"

Eighth graders reflect on the state of the planet.

earth day 2024

Earth Day reflections from the next generation

This week we're featuring essays from Houston-area eighth graders to hear what the youth think about the state of our planet.

New EPA regulations mean a closer eye on the nation’s petrochemical hub

New EPA regulations mean a closer eye on the nation’s petrochemical hub

Houston’s fenceline communities welcome stricter federal rules on chemical plant emissions but worry about state compliance.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.