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

Opinion: Building climate resilience fails to protect human health

The Department of Health and Human Services' focus on climate resilience is insufficient to address the extensive health impacts of climate change.

David Introcaso writes for Undark Magazine.

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
Montana Youth Climate lawsuit
Credit: Douglas Fischer

Montana’s Supreme Court debates climate law's constitutionality

A landmark climate lawsuit in Montana questions whether a state law supporting fossil fuel development infringes on constitutional rights to a healthy environment.

Nicholas Kusnetz and Najifa Farhat report for Inside Climate News.

Keep reading...Show less

Manitoba's pipeline oversight faces scrutiny after recent shutdown

A recent pipeline shutdown has exposed significant gaps in Manitoba's oversight of its oil and gas industry, raising concerns about the province's regulatory practices.

Julia-Simone Rutgers reports for The Narwhal.

Keep reading...Show less

Biden announces $1.7 billion to support US EV factories

The Biden administration is providing $1.7 billion to retool 11 auto factories for electric vehicle production, aiming to secure jobs and support union labor.

Maxine Joselow reports for The Washington Post.

Keep reading...Show less

China leads global wind and solar project construction

China is constructing nearly double the wind and solar power of the rest of the world combined, according to a new report.

Amy Hawkins reports for The Guardian.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
WATCH: Enduring the “endless” expansion of the nation’s petrochemical corridor

WATCH: Enduring the “endless” expansion of the nation’s petrochemical corridor

As mounds of dredged material from the Houston Ship Channel dot their neighborhoods, residents are left without answers as to what dangers could be lurking.

US Steel pollution

Nippon Steel shareholders demand environmental accountability in light of pending U.S. Steel acquisition

“It’s a little ironic that they’re coming to the U.S. and buying a company facing all the same problems they’re facing in Japan.”

Another chemical recycling plant closure offers ‘flashing red light’ to nascent industry

Another chemical recycling plant closure offers ‘flashing red light’ to nascent industry

Fulcrum BioFuels’ shuttered “sustainable aviation fuel” plant is the latest facility to run into technical and financial challenges.

nurses climate change

Op-ed: In a warming world, nurses heal people and the planet

Nurses have the experience, motivation and public support to make an important contribution in tackling the climate crises.

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