Energy & Environment

Biden to rejoin Paris agreement, revoke Keystone XL permit 

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President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday will rejoin the Paris agreement, revoke a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and take a slew of other environmental actions after he’s sworn in as president.

Biden plans to sign two executive orders among the 15 he will issue on his first day in office that will have ramifications for the environment as well as numerous rollbacks put in place by the Trump administration.

While one will rejoin the global climate agreement, another directs agencies across government to reconsider a number of actions taken under the previous administration, sending along a nine-page hit list of Trump era actions likely to be reversed under the Biden administration.

“When it comes to climate change, President-elect Biden has made his views abundantly clear. Climate change poses an existential threat not just to our environment, but to our health, our communities, our national security, as well as our economic well being,” Gina McCarthy, Biden’s domestic climate adviser, told reporters on Tuesday.

“At this moment of profound crisis, we have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy, one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050,” she added.

Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on his first day in office, part of his commitment to get the U.S. on a path to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

And in his second order he aims to halt a number of oil and gas activities, revoking the Keystone XL pipeline set to cross the border with Canada and placing a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The action stops short of Biden’s ultimate goal of halting all new fossil fuel leasing on federal lands and in federal waters, though it’s an action he has pledged his administration will take.

The order also directs agencies to review boundaries for the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

Trump shrunk the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments over objections from environmentalists as well as Native Americans, who argued the lands were sacred to their tribes.

In the case of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, Trump lifted protection of the area in a bid to open it to more commercial fishing.

The Wednesday action will also direct agencies to review standards for vehicles, appliances and buildings.

The Trump administration rolled back Obama-era standards for both fuel economy and vehicle emissions, which was seen as a setback in the fight against climate change.

It has also weakened or created exemptions to efficiency standards for a number of products, including dishwashers, lightbulbs and shower heads.

The order will further reestablish the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, a group formed under the Obama administration that sought to account for the harms caused by emissions in agency rulemaking.

While the Obama administration assessed a $50 per metric ton cost to carbon, the Trump administration used a $7 per metric ton figure, a move the Government Accountability Office found systematically underestimated the damage caused by carbon pollution.

The order directs the agencies to review dozens of Trump-era policies, including a list of 48 decisions at the EPA, 31 at the Interior Department and 10 at the Energy Department.

Jen Psaki, whom Biden has named as White House press secretary, told reporters that Biden would sign the executive orders in the afternoon in the Oval Office.

Biden has listed climate change as one of his administration’s top four priorities, alongside COVID-19, racial equity and economic recovery.

Tags Gina McCarthy Jen Psaki Joe Biden Keystone XL pipeline Paris agreement
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