The Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases

27 February, 2021

Today the US government bumped the ‘social cost of greenhouse gases’ up to $51. The previous administration had knocked it down to between $1 and $7.

It’s a funny expression, ‘social cost of greenhouse gases’, but it means the marginal cost of the impacts caused by emitting one extra tonne of carbon dioxide—or the equivalent amount of any other greenhouse gas. This includes impacts on the environment and human health:

• Wikipedia, Social cost of carbon.

This new decision should affect US government policy decisions based on cost-benefit analyses:

For example, if the Trump administration had applied the Obama-era calculation to its rollback of federal mileage standards, the costs of that rule would have far outweighed the benefits and would have been much harder to justify. And any federal coal leasing in the Powder River Basin would be unlikely to win approval: University of Chicago professor Michael Greenstone noted that the climate damages associated with that mining “are six times larger than the market price of that coal.”

It may also wind up affecting decisions made by state and local governments and corporations. But it lags behind some states: in December 2020, New York adopted a ‘value of carbon guidance’ ranging between $79 and $125, depending on the discount rate assumed. The lower figure assumes a 3% annual discount of future damages, while the higher one assumes 2%.

The discount rate is crucial in all these calculations! The previous administration had reached its ludicrously low figure for the social cost of greenhouse gases using a couple of tricks: it neglected costs incurred outside the US, and it assumed a 7% annual discount rate. Biden’s new $51 cost assumes a 3% discount rate. At a 5% discount rate the cost would drop to merely $14.

All these calculations will be redone more carefully in a while:

While the Biden administration has set an initial price to inform its analysis of policies ranging from gas mileage standards to purchasing, it will embark on a months-long process to determine a longer-lasting one. That price will take other factors into account, such as the fact that the poor suffer more from climate impacts than the wealthy and more recent scientific findings on climate impacts.

The above quotes are from here:

• Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Biden is hiking the cost of carbon. It will change how the U.S. tackles global warming, Washington Post, 26 February 2021.

Here is today’s White House announcement on the social cost of carbon:

A Return to Science: Evidence-Based Estimates of the Benefits of Reducing Climate Pollution

On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued a Memorandum directing Federal agencies to make decisions guided by the best available science and data. Today, we are taking an important early step in bringing evidence-based principles back into the process of estimating the benefits of reducing climate pollution.

The evidence is clear that climate change is real and is already having economic consequences. The 2018 National Climate Assessment underscored the fact that climate change presents growing challenges to human health, safety, quality of life, and economic growth. We can see economic costs associated with climate change in more frequent and/or intense extreme weather events like wildfires, severe storms, and flooding, as well as the ways climate change disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable in society, particularly lower-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal communities. As decision-makers develop policies, they must incorporate the very real costs of climate change to current and future generations into their decisions.

One specific tool — called the “social cost of greenhouse gases” — combines climate science and economics to help Federal agencies and the public understand the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The metric is a range of estimates, in dollars, of the long-term damage done by one ton of greenhouse gas emissions.

The use of this metric by the U.S. Government began in the Bush Administration and was later standardized across agencies in the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration created an Interagency Working Group of technical experts across the Federal Government to develop uniform estimates, subject to extensive public comment, in order to ensure that agencies utilized the best available science and economics.

However, the previous Administration disbanded the Interagency Working Group that had developed and refined these estimates and issued revised estimates based on assumptions that did not rely on the best available science or have the benefit of dedicated public comment. It also failed to implement 2017 recommendations from the experts at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that the Interagency Working Group had requested to ensure that these estimates continued to be in line with the latest science and economics.

This Administration will follow the science and listen to the experts. In a first-day executive order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis, President Biden reconvened the working group of technical experts from across the Federal Government and instructed them to restore the science- and economics-based approach to estimating climate damages.

The Interagency Working Group — co-chaired by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget, and Council of Economic Advisers — today announced it is replacing the previous Administration’s estimates with the estimates developed prior to 2017, adjusted for inflation. This interim step will enable Federal agencies to immediately and more appropriately account for climate impacts in their decision-making while we continue the process of bringing the best, most up-to-date science and economics to the estimation of the social costs of greenhouse gases.

Today’s step restores three critical aspects of these estimates. First, the estimates put in effect today were subject to an extensive and robust process, including public notice and comment. A 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report also concluded that the Interagency Working Group followed a “consensus-based” approach, relied on peer-reviewed academic literature, and disclosed relevant limitations when finalizing the estimates we are restoring today.

Second, these estimates take global damages into account. COVID-19 has re-emphasized the ways in which events on the other side of the globe can harm us here. Climate impacts abroad can affect the United States in many ways, including through supply chain disruptions, market volatility, and effects on our national security. In addition, climate actions taken by the United States and other countries under the Paris Agreement will benefit all countries, including the United States. Just as we expect and encourage other countries to consider the climate impact of their actions on us, we should take the global benefits of our actions into account.

Third, these estimates use the discount rates (the approach to calculating the present-day value of future climate damages) previously established by the Interagency Working Group. Restoring these rates puts these interim values in better alignment with the intergenerational nature of the climate challenge and the approaches taken in the peer-reviewed literature than the estimates used while the Interagency Working Group was disbanded.

A more complete update that follows the best science takes time. This is why we are quickly restoring the prior estimates as an interim step. With these estimates temporarily in place, the Interagency Working Group will continue its critical work to evaluate and incorporate the latest climate science and economic research and respond to the National Academies’ recommendations as we develop a more complete revision of the estimates for release within a year. Research, such as our understanding of the appropriate approach to discounting, has advanced rapidly over the past few years and we are collecting dedicated public comment through an upcoming Federal Register notice on how to improve our approach.

As this process proceeds, we are committed to engaging with the public and diverse stakeholders, seeking the advice of ethics experts, and working to ensure that the social cost of greenhouse gases consider climate risk, environmental justice, and intergenerational equity. The result will be even stronger science-based estimates developed through a transparent and robust process.


General Motors to Stop Selling Petroleum-Powered Cars

29 January, 2021

General Motors announced today that it would stop selling petroleum-powered cars by 2035:

• Fred Krup, Why GM’s clean cars announcement is a really big deal, EDF Voices Blog, 28 January 2021.

Fred Krup is president of the Environmental Defense Fund, a famous environmental organization. He writes:

Today I was pleased to lend my support to GM’s dramatic announcement that it is working to eliminate tailpipe emissions from all of its new light-duty vehicles by 2035, and to be carbon neutral in its global products and operations by 2040. EDF has been working with GM to develop a shared vision for an all-electric future, and we’re proud to have played a part in this breakthrough moment.

Why is this a big deal? When a leading U.S. carmaker takes such a step, it sends a powerful signal to the industry that being on the road to zero emissions is an essential element of every automaker’s business plan. There can be no doubt: The future of transportation, starting now, is electric.

This interacts in a nice way with Biden’s announcement this week that U.S. government would replace its entire fleet of ~645,000 cars, trucks and SUVs with electric vehicles manufactured in the United States.


US Environmental Policy (Part 4)

28 January, 2021

Biden’s executive orders are now going beyond revoking those of the previous president. He may really take climate change seriously. It’s starting to scare some people.

• Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, As Biden vows monumental action on climate change, a fight with the fossil fuel industry has only begun, Washington Post, 27 January 2021.

Joe Biden had long promised to become the climate president, and on Wednesday he detailed far-ranging plans to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels, create millions of jobs in renewable energy, and conserve vast swaths of public lands and water.

“This is not a time for small measures,” Biden said at the White House, adding that the nation had already wasted precious years as it delayed in dealing with the climate crisis.

But as he detailed his plans, the gas, oil and coal industries were already mobilizing on all fronts. From an oil patch in Alaska to state capitals to the halls of Congress, the industries and their allies are aiming to slow Biden’s unprecedented push for climate action and keep profits from fossil fuels flowing. Republican attorneys general from six states wrote to the new president, warning him not to overstep his authority. GOP lawmakers attacked his executive orders as “job killers.” And the petroleum industry revived television ads promoting drilling on federal lands.

Industry executives expressed dismay at the scope, speed and direction in which Biden is heading, saying he is going much further than President Barack Obama ever did, while environmentalists said the danger that Earth faces is far more dire now than it appeared during Obama’s tenure and requires an extraordinary response. Last year essentially tied with 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded, and scientists say the planet is speeding toward irreversible damage.

In barely a week in office, Biden has moved to rejoin the Paris climate accord, halt the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, impose new limits on oil and gas production, and mandate climate change as a priority across every federal agency.

This article spells out the forthcoming battle in a bit more detail:

• Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, The battle lines are forming in Biden’s climate push, New York Times, 26 January, 2020.

As President Biden prepares on Wednesday to open an ambitious effort to confront climate change, powerful and surprising forces are arrayed at his back.

Automakers are coming to accept that much higher fuel economy standards are their future; large oil and gas companies have said some curbs on greenhouse pollution lifted by former President Donald J. Trump should be reimposed; shareholders are demanding corporations acknowledge and prepare for a warmer, more volatile future, and a youth movement is driving the Democratic Party to go big to confront the issue.

But what may well stand in the president’s way is political intransigence from senators from fossil-fuel states in both parties. An evenly divided Senate has given enormous power to any single senator, and one in particular, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who will lead the Senate Energy Committee and who came to the Senate as a defender of his state’s coal industry.

Today’s executive order raises the stakes:

Executive order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

The United States and the world face a profound climate crisis.  We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.  Domestic action must go hand in hand with United States international leadership, aimed at significantly enhancing global action.  Together, we must listen to science and meet the moment.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

PART I — PUTTING THE CLIMATE CRISIS AT THE CENTER OF UNITED STATES FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY

Section 101.  Policy.  United States international engagement to address climate change — which has become a climate crisis — is more necessary and urgent than ever.  The scientific community has made clear that the scale and speed of necessary action is greater than previously believed.  There is little time left to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.  Responding to the climate crisis will require both significant short-term global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and net-zero global emissions by mid-century or before.

It is the policy of my Administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.  The United States will work with other countries and partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.  The United States will also move quickly to build resilience, both at home and abroad, against the impacts of climate change that are already manifest and will continue to intensify according to current trajectories.

Sec. 102.  Purpose.  This order builds on and reaffirms actions my Administration has already taken to place the climate crisis at the forefront of this Nation’s foreign policy and national security planning, including submitting the United States instrument of acceptance to rejoin the Paris Agreement.  In implementing — and building upon — the Paris Agreement’s three overarching objectives (a safe global temperature, increased climate resilience, and financial flows aligned with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate‑resilient development), the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global climate ambition to meet the climate challenge.  In this regard:

(a)  I will host an early Leaders’ Climate Summit aimed at raising climate ambition and making a positive contribution to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and beyond. 

(b)  The United States will reconvene the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, beginning with the Leaders’ Climate Summit.  In cooperation with the members of that Forum, as well as with other partners as appropriate, the United States will pursue green recovery efforts, initiatives to advance the clean energy transition, sectoral decarbonization, and alignment of financial flows with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, including with respect to coal financing, nature-based solutions, and solutions to other climate-related challenges.

(c)  I have created a new Presidentially appointed position, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, to elevate the issue of climate change and underscore the commitment my Administration will make toward addressing it.  

(d)  Recognizing that climate change affects a wide range of subjects, it will be a United States priority to press for enhanced climate ambition and integration of climate considerations across a wide range of international fora, including the Group of Seven (G7), the Group of Twenty (G20), and fora that address clean energy, aviation, shipping, the Arctic, the ocean, sustainable development, migration, and other relevant topics.  The Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and others, as appropriate, are encouraged to promote innovative approaches, including international multi-stakeholder initiatives.  In addition, my Administration will work in partnership with States, localities, Tribes, territories, and other United States stakeholders to advance United States climate diplomacy.

(e)  The United States will immediately begin the process of developing its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement.  The process will include analysis and input from relevant executive departments and agencies (agencies), as well as appropriate outreach to domestic stakeholders.  The United States will aim to submit its nationally determined contribution in advance of the Leaders’ Climate Summit.

(f)  The United States will also immediately begin to develop a climate finance plan, making strategic use of multilateral and bilateral channels and institutions, to assist developing countries in implementing ambitious emissions reduction measures, protecting critical ecosystems, building resilience against the impacts of climate change, and promoting the flow of capital toward climate-aligned investments and away from high-carbon investments.  The Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, shall lead a process to develop this plan, with the participation of the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Chief Executive Officer of the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Director of the United States Trade and Development Agency, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the head of any other agency providing foreign assistance and development financing, as appropriate.  The Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury shall submit the plan to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, within 90 days of the date of this order.

(g)  The Secretary of the Treasury shall:

(i)    ensure that the United States is present and engaged in relevant international fora and institutions that are working on the management of climate-related financial risks;

(ii)   develop a strategy for how the voice and vote of the United States can be used in international financial institutions, including the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, to promote financing programs, economic stimulus packages, and debt relief initiatives that are aligned with and support the goals of the Paris Agreement; and

(iii)  develop, in collaboration with the Secretary of State, the Administrator of USAID, and the Chief Executive Officer of the DFC, a plan for promoting the protection of the Amazon rainforest and other critical ecosystems that serve as global carbon sinks, including through market-based mechanisms.

(h)  The Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Energy shall work together and with the Export–Import Bank of the United States, the Chief Executive Officer of the DFC, and the heads of other agencies and partners, as appropriate, to identify steps through which the United States can promote ending international financing of carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy while simultaneously advancing sustainable development and a green recovery, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

(i)  The Secretary of Energy, in cooperation with the Secretary of State and the heads of other agencies, as appropriate, shall identify steps through which the United States can intensify international collaborations to drive innovation and deployment of clean energy technologies, which are critical for climate protection.

(j)  The Secretary of State shall prepare, within 60 days of the date of this order, a transmittal package seeking the Senate’s advice and consent to ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, regarding the phasedown of the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons.

Sec. 103.  Prioritizing Climate in Foreign Policy and National Security.  To ensure that climate change considerations are central to United States foreign policy and national security:

(a)  Agencies that engage in extensive international work shall develop, in coordination with the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, within 90 days of the date of this order, strategies and implementation plans for integrating climate considerations into their international work, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.  These strategies and plans should include an assessment of:

(i)    climate impacts relevant to broad agency strategies in particular countries or regions;

(ii)   climate impacts on their agency-managed infrastructure abroad (e.g., embassies, military installations), without prejudice to existing requirements regarding assessment of such infrastructure;

(iii)  how the agency intends to manage such impacts or incorporate risk mitigation into its installation master plans; and

(iv)   how the agency’s international work, including partner engagement, can contribute to addressing the climate crisis.

(b)  The Director of National Intelligence shall prepare, within 120 days of the date of this order, a National Intelligence Estimate on the national and economic security impacts of climate change.

(c)  The Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the  Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the heads of other agencies as appropriate, shall develop and submit to the President, within 120 days of the date of this order, an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses.

(d)  The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall consider the security implications of climate change, including any relevant information from the Climate Risk Analysis described in subsection (c) of this section, in developing the National Defense Strategy, Defense Planning Guidance, Chairman’s Risk Assessment, and other relevant strategy, planning, and programming documents and processes.  Starting in January 2022, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall provide an annual update, through the National Security Council, on the progress made in incorporating the security implications of climate change into these documents and processes.

(e)  The Secretary of Homeland Security shall consider the implications of climate change in the Arctic, along our Nation’s borders, and to National Critical Functions, including any relevant information from the Climate Risk Analysis described in subsection (c) of this section, in developing relevant strategy, planning, and programming documents and processes.  Starting in January 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide an annual update, through the National Security Council, on the progress made in incorporating the homeland security implications of climate change into these documents and processes.

Sec. 104.  Reinstatement.  The Presidential Memorandum of September 21, 2016 (Climate Change and National Security), is hereby reinstated. 

PART II — TAKING A GOVERNMENT-WIDE APPROACH TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS

Sec. 201.  Policy.  Even as our Nation emerges from profound public health and economic crises borne of a pandemic, we face a climate crisis that threatens our people and communities, public health and economy, and, starkly, our ability to live on planet Earth.  Despite the peril that is already evident, there is promise in the solutions — opportunities to create well-paying union jobs to build a modern and sustainable infrastructure, deliver an equitable, clean energy future, and put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.

We must listen to science — and act.  We must strengthen our clean air and water protections.  We must hold polluters accountable for their actions.  We must deliver environmental justice in communities all across America.  The Federal Government must drive assessment, disclosure, and mitigation of climate pollution and climate-related risks in every sector of our economy, marshaling the creativity, courage, and capital necessary to make our Nation resilient in the face of this threat.  Together, we must combat the climate crisis with bold, progressive action that combines the full capacity of the Federal Government with efforts from every corner of our Nation, every level of government, and every sector of our economy. 

It is the policy of my Administration to organize and deploy the full capacity of its agencies to combat the climate crisis to implement a Government-wide approach that reduces climate pollution in every sector of the economy; increases resilience to the impacts of climate change; protects public health; conserves our lands, waters, and biodiversity; delivers environmental justice; and spurs well-paying union jobs and economic growth, especially through innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.  Successfully meeting these challenges will require the Federal Government to pursue such a coordinated approach from planning to implementation, coupled with substantive engagement by stakeholders, including State, local, and Tribal governments.

Sec. 202.  White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.  There is hereby established the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy (Climate Policy Office) within the Executive Office of the President, which shall coordinate the policy-making process with respect to domestic climate-policy issues; coordinate domestic climate-policy advice to the President; ensure that domestic climate-policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President’s stated goals and that those goals are being effectively pursued; and monitor implementation of the President’s domestic climate-policy agenda.  The Climate Policy Office shall have a staff headed by the Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor (National Climate Advisor) and shall include the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Climate Advisor.  The Climate Policy Office shall have such staff and other assistance as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this order, subject to the availability of appropriations, and may work with established or ad hoc committees or interagency groups.  All agencies shall cooperate with the Climate Policy Office and provide such information, support, and assistance to the Climate Policy Office as it may request, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

Sec.203.  National Climate Task Force.  There is hereby established a National Climate Task Force (Task Force).  The Task Force shall be chaired by the National Climate Advisor.

(a)  Membership.  The Task Force shall consist of the following additional members:

(i)      the Secretary of the Treasury;

(ii)     the Secretary of Defense;

(iii)    the Attorney General;

(iv)     the Secretary of the Interior;

(v)      the Secretary of Agriculture;

(vi)     the Secretary of Commerce;

(vii)    the Secretary of Labor;

(viii)   the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

(ix)     the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;

(x)      the Secretary of Transportation;

(xi)     the Secretary of Energy;

(xii)    the Secretary of Homeland Security;

(xiii)   the Administrator of General Services;

(xiv)    the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality;

(xv)     the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xvi)    the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

(xvii)   the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;

(xviii)  the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy;

(xix)    the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs;

(xx)     the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and

(xxi)    the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.

(b)  Mission and Work.  The Task Force shall facilitate the organization and deployment of a Government-wide approach to combat the climate crisis.  This Task Force shall facilitate planning and implementation of key Federal actions to reduce climate pollution; increase resilience to the impacts of climate change; protect public health; conserve our lands, waters, oceans, and biodiversity; deliver environmental justice; and spur well-paying union jobs and economic growth.  As necessary and appropriate, members of the Task Force will engage on these matters with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments; workers and communities; and leaders across the various sectors of our economy. 

(c)  Prioritizing Actions.  To the extent permitted by law, Task Force members shall prioritize action on climate change in their policy-making and budget processes, in their contracting and procurement, and in their engagement with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments; workers and communities; and leaders across all the sectors of our economy.

USE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S BUYING POWER AND REAL PROPERTY AND ASSET MANAGEMENT

Sec. 204.  Policy.  It is the policy of my Administration to lead the Nation’s effort to combat the climate crisis by example — specifically, by aligning the management of Federal procurement and real property, public lands and waters, and financial programs to support robust climate action.  By providing an immediate, clear, and stable source of product demand, increased transparency and data, and robust standards for the market, my Administration will help to catalyze private sector investment into, and accelerate the advancement of America’s industrial capacity to supply, domestic clean energy, buildings, vehicles, and other necessary products and materials.

Sec. 205.  Federal Clean Electricity and Vehicle Procurement Strategy.  (a)  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of General Services, and the Director of the Office and Management and Budget, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Energy, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall assist the National Climate Advisor, through the Task Force established in section 203 of this order, in developing a comprehensive plan to create good jobs and stimulate clean energy industries by revitalizing the Federal Government’s sustainability efforts.

(b)  The plan shall aim to use, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, all available procurement authorities to achieve or facilitate:

(i)   a carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035; and

(ii)  clean and zero-emission vehicles for Federal, State, local, and Tribal government fleets, including vehicles of the United States Postal Service.

(c)  If necessary, the plan shall recommend any additional legislation needed to accomplish these objectives.

(d)  The plan shall also aim to ensure that the United States retains the union jobs integral to and involved in running and maintaining clean and zero-emission fleets, while spurring the creation of union jobs in the manufacture of those new vehicles.  The plan shall be submitted to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order.

Sec. 206.  Procurement Standards.  Consistent with the Executive Order of January 25, 2021, entitled, “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers,” agencies shall adhere to the requirements of the Made in America Laws in making clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean energy procurement decisions.  Agencies shall, consistent with applicable law, apply and enforce the Davis-Bacon Act and prevailing wage and benefit requirements.  The Secretary of Labor shall take steps to update prevailing wage requirements.  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall consider additional administrative steps and guidance to assist the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council in developing regulatory amendments to promote increased contractor attention on reduced carbon emission and Federal sustainability.  

Sec. 207.  Renewable Energy on Public Lands and in Offshore Waters.  The Secretary of the Interior shall review siting and permitting processes on public lands and in offshore waters to identify to the Task Force steps that can be taken, consistent with applicable law, to increase renewable energy production on those lands and in those waters, with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 while ensuring robust protection for our lands, waters, and biodiversity and creating good jobs.  In conducting this review, the Secretary of the Interior shall consult, as appropriate, with the heads of relevant agencies, including the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Secretary of Energy, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, State and Tribal authorities, project developers, and other interested parties.  The Secretary of the Interior shall engage with Tribal authorities regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources on Tribal lands.

Sec. 208.  Oil and Natural Gas Development on Public Lands and in Offshore Waters.  To the extent consistent with applicable law,the Secretary of the Interior shall pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices in light of the Secretary of the Interior’s broad stewardship responsibilities over the public lands and in offshore waters, including potential climate and other impacts associated with oil and gas activities on public lands or in offshore waters.  The Secretary of the Interior shall complete that review in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Secretary of Energy.  In conducting this analysis, and to the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall consider whether to adjust royalties associated with coal, oil, and gas resources extracted from public lands and offshore waters, or take other appropriate action, to account for corresponding climate costs.

Sec. 209.  Fossil Fuel Subsidies.  The heads of agencies shall identify for the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the National Climate Advisor any fossil fuel subsidies provided by their respective agencies, and then take steps to ensure that, to the extent consistent with applicable law, Federal funding is not directly subsidizing fossil fuels.  The Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall seek, in coordination with the heads of agencies and the National Climate Advisor, to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from the budget request for Fiscal Year 2022 and thereafter.

Sec. 210.  Clean Energy in Financial Management.  The heads of agencies shall identify opportunities for Federal funding to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure for the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the National Climate Advisor, and then take steps to ensure that, to the extent consistent with applicable law, Federal funding is used to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.  The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with agency heads and the National Climate Advisor, shall seek to prioritize such investments in the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2022 and thereafter.

     Sec. 211.  Climate Action Plans and Data and Information Products to Improve Adaptation and Increase Resilience.  (a)  The head of each agency shall submit a draft action plan to the Task Force and the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer within 120 days of the date of this order that describes steps the agency can take with regard to its facilities and operations to bolster adaptation and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.  Action plans should, among other things, describe the agency’s climate vulnerabilities and describe the agency’s plan to use the power of procurement to increase the energy and water efficiency of United States Government installations, buildings, and facilities and ensure they are climate-ready.  Agencies shall consider the feasibility of using the purchasing power of the Federal Government to drive innovation, and shall seek to increase the Federal Government’s resilience against supply chain disruptions.  Such disruptions put the Nation’s manufacturing sector at risk, as well as consumer access to critical goods and services.  Agencies shall make their action plans public, and post them on the agency website, to the extent consistent with applicable law.

(b)  Within 30 days of an agency’s submission of an action plan, the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, shall review the plan to assess its consistency with the policy set forth in section 204 of this order and the priorities issued by the Office of Management and Budget.

(c)  After submitting an initial action plan, the head of each agency shall submit to the Task Force and Federal Chief Sustainability Officer progress reports annually on the status of implementation efforts.  Agencies shall make progress reports public and post them on the agency website, to the extent consistent with applicable law.  The heads of agencies shall assign their respective agency Chief Sustainability Officer the authority to perform duties relating to implementation of this order within the agency, to the extent consistent with applicable law.

(d)  To assist agencies and State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, communities, and businesses in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change, the Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in coordination with the heads of other agencies, as appropriate, shall provide to the Task Force a report on ways to expand and improve climate forecast capabilities and information products for the public.  In addition, the Secretary of the Interior and the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget, in their capacities as the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Federal Geographic Data Committee, shall assess and provide to the Task Force a report on the potential development of a consolidated Federal geographic mapping service that can facilitate public access to climate-related information that will assist Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments in climate planning and resilience activities.

EMPOWERING WORKERS THROUGH REBUILDING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE FOR A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

     Sec. 212.  Policy.  This Nation needs millions of construction, manufacturing, engineering, and skilled-trades workers to build a new American infrastructure and clean energy economy.  These jobs will create opportunities for young people and for older workers shifting to new professions, and for people from all backgrounds and communities.  Such jobs will bring opportunity to communities too often left behind — places that have suffered as a result of economic shifts and places that have suffered the most from persistent pollution, including low-income rural and urban communities, communities of color, and Native communities. 

     Sec. 213.  Sustainable Infrastructure.  (a)  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall take steps, consistent with applicable law, to ensure that Federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution, and to require that Federal permitting decisions consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.  In addition, they shall review, and report to the National Climate Advisor on, siting and permitting processes, including those in progress under the auspices of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, and identify steps that can be taken, consistent with applicable law, to accelerate the deployment of clean energy and transmission projects in an environmentally stable manner.

     (b)  Agency heads conducting infrastructure reviews shall, as appropriate, consult from an early stage with State, local, and Tribal officials involved in permitting or authorizing proposed infrastructure projects to develop efficient timelines for decision-making that are appropriate given the complexities of proposed projects.

EMPOWERING WORKERS BY ADVANCING CONSERVATION, AGRICULTURE, AND REFORESTATION

     Sec. 214.  Policy.  It is the policy of my Administration to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters.  The Federal Government must protect America’s natural treasures, increase reforestation, improve access to recreation, and increase resilience to wildfires and storms, while creating well-paying union jobs for more Americans, including more opportunities for women and people of color in occupations where they are underrepresented.  America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by sequestering carbon in soils, grasses, trees, and other vegetation and sourcing sustainable bioproducts and fuels.  Coastal communities have an essential role to play in mitigating climate change and strengthening resilience by protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems, such as wetlands, seagrasses, coral and oyster reefs, and mangrove and kelp forests, to protect vulnerable coastlines, sequester carbon, and support biodiversity and fisheries.

     Sec. 215.  Civilian Climate Corps.  In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 214 of this order, the Secretary of the Interior, in collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a strategy to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order for creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, within existing appropriations, to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs.  The initiative shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.

     Sec. 216.  Conserving Our Nation’s Lands and Waters.  (a)  The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a report to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order recommending steps that the United States should take, working with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders, to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

(i)   The Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall, as appropriate, solicit input from State, local, Tribal, and territorial officials, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders in identifying strategies that will encourage broad participation in the goal of conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

(ii)  The report shall propose guidelines for determining whether lands and waters qualify for conservation, and it also shall establish mechanisms to measure progress toward the 30-percent goal.  The Secretary of the Interior shall subsequently submit annual reports to the Task Force to monitor progress.

(b)  The Secretary of Agriculture shall:

(i)   initiate efforts in the first 60 days from the date of this order to collect input from Tribes, farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, firefighters, and other stakeholders on how to best use Department of Agriculture programs, funding and financing capacities, and other authorities, and how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices that decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change and result in additional, measurable, and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration and that source sustainable bioproducts and fuels; and

(ii)  submit to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order a report making recommendations for an agricultural and forestry climate strategy.

     (c)  The Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shall initiate efforts in the first 60 days from the date of this order to collect input from fishermen, regional ocean councils, fishery management councils, scientists, and other stakeholders on how to make fisheries and protected resources more resilient to climate change, including changes in management and conservation measures, and improvements in science, monitoring, and cooperative research.

EMPOWERING WORKERS THROUGH REVITALIZING ENERGY COMMUNITIES

     Sec. 217.  Policy.  It is the policy of my Administration to improve air and water quality and to create well-paying union jobs and more opportunities for women and people of color in hard-hit communities, including rural communities, while reducing methane emissions, oil and brine leaks, and other environmental harms from tens of thousands of former mining and well sites.  Mining and power plant workers drove the industrial revolution and the economic growth that followed, and have been essential to the growth of the United States.  As the Nation shifts to a clean energy economy, Federal leadership is essential to foster economic revitalization of and investment in these communities, ensure the creation of good jobs that provide a choice to join a union, and secure the benefits that have been earned by workers.

     Such work should include projects that reduce emissions of toxic substances and greenhouse gases from existing and abandoned infrastructure and that prevent environmental damage that harms communities and poses a risk to public health and safety.  Plugging leaks in oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned mine land can create well-paying union jobs in coal, oil, and gas communities while restoring natural assets, revitalizing recreation economies, and curbing methane emissions.  In addition, such work should include efforts to turn properties idled in these communities, such as brownfields, into new hubs for the growth of our economy.  Federal agencies should therefore coordinate investments and other efforts to assist coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities, and achieve substantial reductions of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as quickly as possible.

     Sec. 218.  Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic RevitalizationThere is hereby established an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization (Interagency Working Group).  The National Climate Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy shall serve as Co-Chairs of the Interagency Working Group.

(a)   Membership.  The Interagency Working Group shall consist of the following additional members:

(i)     the Secretary of the Treasury;

(ii)    the Secretary of the Interior;

(iii)   the Secretary of Agriculture;

(iv)    the Secretary of Commerce;

(v)     the Secretary of Labor;

(vi)    the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

(vii)   the Secretary of Transportation;

(viii)  the Secretary of Energy;

(ix)    the Secretary of Education;

(x)     the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xi)    the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

(xii)   the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Director of the Domestic Policy Council; and

(xiii)  the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

(b)  Mission and Work. 

(i)   The Interagency Working Group shall coordinate the identification and delivery of Federal resources to revitalize the economies of coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities; develop strategies to implement the policy set forth in section 217 of this order and for economic and social recovery; assess opportunities to ensure benefits and protections for coal and power plant workers; and submit reports to the National Climate Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy on a regular basis on the progress of the revitalization effort.

(ii)  As part of this effort, within 60 days of the date of this order, the Interagency Working Group shall submit a report to the President describing all mechanisms, consistent with applicable law, to prioritize grantmaking, Federal loan programs, technical assistance, financing, procurement, or other existing programs to support and revitalize the economies of coal and power plant communities, and providing recommendations for action consistent with the goals of the Interagency Working Group.

(c)  Consultation.  Consistent with the objectives set out in this order and in accordance with applicable law, the Interagency Working Group shall seek the views of State, local, and Tribal officials; unions; environmental justice organizations; community groups; and other persons it identifies who may have perspectives on the mission of the Interagency Working Group.

(d)  Administration.  The Interagency Working Group shall be housed within the Department of Energy.  The Chairs shall convene regular meetings of the Interagency Working Group, determine its agenda, and direct its work.  The Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Chairs, shall designate an Executive Director of the Interagency Working Group, who shall coordinate the work of the Interagency Working Group and head any staff assigned to the Interagency Working Group.

(e)  Officers.  To facilitate the work of the Interagency Working Group, the head of each agency listed in subsection (a) of this section shall assign a designated official within the agency the authority to represent the agency on the Interagency Working Group and perform such other duties relating to the implementation of this order within the agency as the head of the agency deems appropriate.

SECURING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND SPURRING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

     Sec. 219.  Policy.  To secure an equitable economic future, the United States must ensure that environmental and economic justice are key considerations in how we govern.  That means investing and building a clean energy economy that creates well‑paying union jobs, turning disadvantaged communities — historically marginalized and overburdened — into healthy, thriving communities, and undertaking robust actions to mitigate climate change while preparing for the impacts of climate change across rural, urban, and Tribal areas.  Agencies shall make achieving environmental justice part of their missions by developing programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionately high and adverse human health, environmental, climate-related and other cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities, as well as the accompanying economic challenges of such impacts.  It is therefore the policy of my Administration to secure environmental justice and spur economic opportunity for disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment in housing, transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure, and health care. 

     Sec. 220.  White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council.  (a)  Section 1-102 of Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994 (Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations), is hereby amended to read as follows:

“(a)  There is hereby created within the Executive Office of the President a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (Interagency Council).  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall serve as Chair of the Interagency Council.

“(b)  Membership.  The Interagency Council shall consist of the following additional members:

(i)      the Secretary of Defense;

(ii)     the Attorney General;

(iii)    the Secretary of the Interior;

(iv)     the Secretary of Agriculture;

(v)      the Secretary of Commerce;

(vi)     the Secretary of Labor;

(vii)    the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

(viii)   the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;

(ix)     the Secretary of Transportation;

(x)      the Secretary of Energy;

(xi)     the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers;

(xii)    the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xiii)   the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

(xiv)    the Executive Director of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council;

(xv)     the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;

(xvi)    the National Climate Advisor;

(xvii)   the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy; and

(xviii)  the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.

“(c)  At the direction of the Chair, the Interagency Council may establish subgroups consisting exclusively of Interagency Council members or their designees under this section, as appropriate.

“(d)  Mission and Work.  The Interagency Council shall develop a strategy to address current and historic environmental injustice by consulting with the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and with local environmental justice leaders.  The Interagency Council shall also develop clear performance metrics to ensure accountability, and publish an annual public performance scorecard on its implementation.

“(e)  Administration.  The Office of Administration within the Executive Office of the President shall provide funding and administrative support for the Interagency Council, to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.  To the extent permitted by law, including the Economy Act (31 U.S.C. 1535), and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency shall provide administrative support as necessary.

“(f)  Meetings and Staff.  The Chair shall convene regular meetings of the Council, determine its agenda, and direct its work.  The Chair shall designate an Executive Director of the Council, who shall coordinate the work of the Interagency Council and head any staff assigned to the Council.

“(g)  Officers.  To facilitate the work of the Interagency Council, the head of each agency listed in subsection (b) shall assign a designated official within the agency to be an Environmental Justice Officer, with the authority to represent the agency on the Interagency Council and perform such other duties relating to the implementation of this order within the agency as the head of the agency deems appropriate.”

(b)  The Interagency Council shall, within 120 days of the date of this order, submit to the President, through the National Climate Advisor, a set of recommendations for further updating Executive Order 12898.

     Sec. 221.  White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.  There is hereby established, within the Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (Advisory Council), which shall advise the Interagency Council and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.

     (a)  Membership.  Members shall be appointed by the President, shall be drawn from across the political spectrum, and may include those with knowledge about or experience in environmental justice, climate change, disaster preparedness, racial inequity, or any other area determined by the President to be of value to the Advisory Council.

     (b)  Mission and Work.  The Advisory Council shall be solely advisory.  It shall provide recommendations to the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council established in section 220 of this order on how to increase the Federal Government’s efforts to address current and historic environmental injustice, including recommendations for updating Executive Order 12898.

     (c)  Administration.  The Environmental Protection Agency shall provide funding and administrative support for the Advisory Council to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.  Members of the Advisory Council shall serve without either compensation or reimbursement of expenses.

     (d)  Federal Advisory Committee Act.  Insofar as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.), may apply to the Advisory Council, any functions of the President under the Act, except for those in section 6 of the Act, shall be performed by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the guidelines that have been issued by the Administrator of General Services.

     Sec. 222.  Agency Responsibilities.  In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 219:

     (a)  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall, within 6 months of the date of this order, create a geospatial Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and shall annually publish interactive maps highlighting disadvantaged communities.

     (b)  The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall, within existing appropriations and consistent with applicable law:

(i)   strengthen enforcement of environmental violations with disproportionate impact on underserved communities through the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance; and

(ii)  create a community notification program to monitor and provide real-time data to the public on current environmental pollution, including emissions, criteria pollutants, and toxins, in frontline and fenceline communities — places with the most significant exposure to such pollution.

     (c)  The Attorney General shall, within existing appropriations and consistent with applicable law:

(i)    consider renaming the Environment and Natural Resources Division the Environmental Justice and Natural Resources Division;

(ii)   direct that division to coordinate with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, through the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, as well as with other client agencies as appropriate, to develop a comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy, which shall seek to provide timely remedies for systemic environmental violations and contaminations, and injury to natural resources; and

(iii)  ensure comprehensive attention to environmental justice throughout the Department of Justice, including by considering creating an Office of Environmental Justice within the Department to coordinate environmental justice activities among Department of Justice components and United States Attorneys’ Offices nationwide.

(d)  The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, consistent with applicable law and within existing appropriations: 

(i)   establish an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity to address the impact of climate change on the health of the American people; and

(ii)  establish an Interagency Working Group to Decrease Risk of Climate Change to Children, the Elderly, People with Disabilities, and the Vulnerable as well as a biennial Health Care System Readiness Advisory Council, both of which shall report their progress and findings regularly to the Task Force.

(e)  The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy shall, in consultation with the National Climate Advisor, within existing appropriations, and within 100 days of the date of this order, publish a report identifying the climate strategies and technologies that will result in the most air and water quality improvements, which shall be made public to the maximum extent possible and published on the Office’s website.

     Sec. 223.  Justice40 Initiative.  (a)  Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Climate Advisor, in consultation with the Advisory Council, shall jointly publish recommendations on how certain Federal investments might be made toward a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits flow to disadvantaged communities.  The recommendations shall focus on investments in the areas of clean energy and energy efficiency; clean transit; affordable and sustainable housing; training and workforce development; the remediation and reduction of legacy pollution; and the development of critical clean water infrastructure.  The recommendations shall reflect existing authorities the agencies may possess for achieving the 40-percent goal as well as recommendations on any legislation needed to achieve the 40‑percent goal. 

     (b)  In developing the recommendations, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Climate Advisor shall consult with affected disadvantaged communities.

     (c)  Within 60 days of the recommendations described in subsection (a) of this section, agency heads shall identify applicable program investment funds based on the recommendations and consider interim investment guidance to relevant program staff, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

     (d)  By February 2022, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of the United States Digital Service, and other relevant agency heads, shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, publish on a public website an annual Environmental Justice Scorecard detailing agency environmental justice performance measures.

PART III — GENERAL PROVISIONS

     Sec. 301.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

     (b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

     (c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

THE WHITE HOUSE,

January 27, 2021.


US Environmental Policy (Part 3)

21 January, 2021

It’s begun! When it comes to global warming we’re in a race for time, and the US has spent the last four years with its ankles zip-tied together. On his first day in office, the new president of the US signed this executive order:

ACCEPTANCE ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement, done at Paris on December 12, 2015, do hereby accept the said Agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America.

Done at Washington this 20th day of January, 2021.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

He also signed this order connected to the climate crisis and other environmental issues:

Executive order on protecting public health and the environment and restoring science to tackle the climate crisis.

It undoes many actions of the previous president.

• It revokes previous executive orders so as to:

  • reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector,
  • establish new fuel economy standards,
  • establish new efficiency standards for buildings, and
  • restore protection to a number of park lands and undersea protected areas (“national monuments”).

• It instantly puts a temporary halt to leasing lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the purposes of oil and gas drilling, so this program can be reviewed.

• It prevents offshore oil and gas drilling in certain Arctic waters and the Bering Sea.

• It revokes the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

• It revives the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, to properly account for the full cost of these emissions.

• It revokes many other executive orders listed in section 7 below.

Here are the details:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Our Nation has an abiding commitment to empower our workers and communities; promote and protect our public health and the environment; and conserve our national treasures and monuments, places that secure our national memory. Where the Federal Government has failed to meet that commitment in the past, it must advance environmental justice. In carrying out this charge, the Federal Government must be guided by the best science and be protected by processes that ensure the integrity of Federal decision-making. It is, therefore, the policy of my Administration to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals.

To that end, this order directs all executive departments and agencies (agencies) to immediately review and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, take action to address the promulgation of Federal regulations and other actions during the last 4 years that conflict with these important national objectives, and to immediately commence work to confront the climate crisis.

Sec. 2. Immediate Review of Agency Actions Taken Between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021. (a) The heads of all agencies shall immediately review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (agency actions) promulgated, issued, or adopted between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021, that are or may be inconsistent with, or present obstacles to, the policy set forth in section 1 of this order. For any such actions identified by the agencies, the heads of agencies shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, consider suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency actions. In addition, for the agency actions in the 4 categories set forth in subsections (i) through (iv) of this section, the head of the relevant agency, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, shall consider publishing for notice and comment a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency action within the time frame specified.

(i)    Reducing Methane Emissions in the Oil and Gas Sector:  “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration,” 85 Fed. Reg. 57398 (September 15, 2020), by September 2021. 

(ii)   Establishing Ambitious, Job-Creating Fuel Economy Standards:  “The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program,” 84 Fed. Reg. 51310 (September 27, 2019), by April 2021; and “The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,” 85 Fed. Reg. 24174 (April 30, 2020), by July 2021.  In considering whether to propose suspending, revising, or rescinding the latter rule, the agency should consider the views of representatives from labor unions, States, and industry.

(iii)  Job-Creating Appliance- and Building-Efficiency Standards:  “Energy Conservation Program for Appliance Standards: Procedures for Use in New or Revised Energy Conservation Standards and Test Procedures for Consumer Products and Commercial/Industrial Equipment,” 85 Fed. Reg. 8626 (February 14, 2020), with major revisions proposed by March 2021 and any remaining revisions proposed by June 2021; “Energy Conservation Program for Appliance Standards: Procedures for Evaluating Statutory Factors for Use in New or Revised Energy Conservation Standards,” 85 Fed. Reg. 50937 (August 19, 2020), with major revisions proposed by March 2021 and any remaining revisions proposed by June 2021; “Final Determination Regarding Energy Efficiency Improvements in the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC),” 84 Fed. Reg. 67435 (December 10, 2019), by May 2021; “Final Determination Regarding Energy Efficiency Improvements in ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2016: Energy Standard for Buildings, Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings,” 83 Fed. Reg. 8463 (February 27, 2018), by May 2021.

(iv)   Protecting Our Air from Harmful Pollution:  “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants: Coal- and Oil-Fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units—Reconsideration of Supplemental Finding and Residual Risk and Technology Review,” 85 Fed. Reg. 31286 (May 22, 2020), by August 2021; “Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process,” 85 Fed. Reg. 84130 (December 23, 2020), as soon as possible; “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information,” 86 Fed. Reg. 469 (January 6, 2021), as soon as possible.

(b)  Within 30 days of the date of this order, heads of agencies shall submit to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a preliminary list of any actions being considered pursuant to section (2)(a) of this order that would be completed by December 31, 2021, and that would be subject to OMB review.  Within 90 days of the date of this order, heads of agencies shall submit to the Director of OMB an updated list of any actions being considered pursuant to section (2)(a) of this order that would be completed by December 31, 2025, and that would be subject to OMB review.  At the time of submission to the Director of OMB, heads of agencies shall also send each list to the National Climate Advisor.  In addition, and at the same time, heads of agencies shall send to the National Climate Advisor a list of additional actions being considered pursuant to section (2)(a) of this order that would not be subject to OMB review.

(c)  Heads of agencies shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, consider whether to take any additional agency actions to fully enforce the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.  With respect to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the following specific actions should be considered:

(i)   proposing new regulations to establish comprehensive standards of performance and emission guidelines for methane and volatile organic compound emissions from existing operations in the oil and gas sector, including the exploration and production, transmission, processing, and storage segments, by September 2021; and

(ii)  proposing a Federal Implementation Plan in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Findings of Failure To Submit State Implementation Plan Revisions in Response to the 2016 Oil and Natural Gas Industry Control Techniques Guidelines for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and for States in the Ozone Transport Region,” 85 Fed. Reg. 72963 (November 16, 2020), for California, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas by January 2022. 

(d)  The Attorney General may, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, provide notice of this order and any actions taken pursuant to section 2(a) of this order to any court with jurisdiction over pending litigation related to those agency actions identified pursuant to section (2)(a) of this order, and may, in his discretion, request that the court stay or otherwise dispose of litigation, or seek other appropriate relief consistent with this order, until the completion of the processes described in this order.

(e)  In carrying out the actions directed in this section, heads of agencies shall seek input from the public and stakeholders, including State local, Tribal, and territorial officials, scientists, labor unions, environmental advocates, and environmental justice organizations.

Sec. 3. Restoring National Monuments. (a) The Secretary of the Interior, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, including the Antiquities Act, 54 U.S.C. 320301 et seq., shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and Tribal governments, conduct a review of the monument boundaries and conditions that were established by Proclamation 9681 of December 4, 2017 (Modifying the Bears Ears National Monument); Proclamation 9682 of December 4, 2017 (Modifying the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument); and Proclamation 10049 of June 5, 2020 (Modifying the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument), to determine whether restoration of the monument boundaries and conditions that existed as of January 20, 2017, would be appropriate.

(b)  Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of the Interior shall submit a report to the President summarizing the findings of the review conducted pursuant to subsection (a), which shall include recommendations for such Presidential actions or other actions consistent with law as the Secretary may consider appropriate to carry out the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(c)  The Attorney General may, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, provide notice of this order to any court with jurisdiction over pending litigation related to the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monuments, and may, in his discretion, request that the court stay the litigation or otherwise delay further litigation, or seek other appropriate relief consistent with this order, pending the completion of the actions described in subsection (a) of this section.

Sec. 4. Arctic Refuge. (a) In light of the alleged legal deficiencies underlying the program, including the inadequacy of the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, place a temporary moratorium on all activities of the Federal Government relating to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program, as established by the Record of Decision signed August 17, 2020, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Secretary shall review the program and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, conduct a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.

(b)  In Executive Order 13754 of December 9, 2016 (Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience), and in the Presidential Memorandum of December 20, 2016 (Withdrawal of Certain Portions of the United States Arctic Outer Continental Shelf From Mineral Leasing), President Obama withdrew areas in Arctic waters and the Bering Sea from oil and gas drilling and established the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.  Subsequently, the order was revoked and the memorandum was amended in Executive Order 13795 of April 28, 2017 (Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy).  Pursuant to section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), Executive Order 13754 and the Presidential Memorandum of December 20, 2016, are hereby reinstated in their original form, thereby restoring the original withdrawal of certain offshore areas in Arctic waters and the Bering Sea from oil and gas drilling.

(c)  The Attorney General may, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, provide notice of this order to any court with jurisdiction over pending litigation related to the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other related programs, and may, in his discretion, request that the court stay the litigation or otherwise delay further litigation, or seek other appropriate relief consistent with this order, pending the completion of the actions described in subsection (a) of this section.

Sec. 5. Accounting for the Benefits of Reducing Climate Pollution. (a) It is essential that agencies capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions as accurately as possible, including by taking global damages into account. Doing so facilitates sound decision-making, recognizes the breadth of climate impacts, and supports the international leadership of the United States on climate issues. The “social cost of carbon” (SCC), “social cost of nitrous oxide” (SCN), and “social cost of methane” (SCM) are estimates of the monetized damages associated with incremental increases in greenhouse gas emissions. They are intended to include changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damage from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services. An accurate social cost is essential for agencies to accurately determine the social benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when conducting cost-benefit analyses of regulatory and other actions.

(b)  There is hereby established an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (the “Working Group”).  The Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Director of OMB, and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy  shall serve as Co-Chairs of the Working Group. 

(i)    Membership.  The Working Group shall also include the following other officers, or their designees:  the Secretary of the Treasury; the Secretary of the Interior; the Secretary of Agriculture; the Secretary of Commerce; the Secretary of Health and Human Services; the Secretary of Transportation; the Secretary of Energy; the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; the Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor; and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council.

(ii)   Mission and Work.  The Working Group shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law: 

(A)  publish an interim SCC, SCN, and SCM within 30 days of the date of this order, which agencies shall use when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations and other relevant agency actions until final values are published;

(B)  publish a final SCC, SCN, and SCM by no later than January 2022;

(C)  provide recommendations to the President, by no later than September 1, 2021, regarding areas of decision-making, budgeting, and procurement by the Federal Government where the SCC, SCN, and SCM should be applied; 

(D)  provide recommendations, by no later than June 1, 2022, regarding a process for reviewing, and, as appropriate, updating, the SCC, SCN, and SCM to ensure that these costs are based on the best available economics and science; and

(E)  provide recommendations, to be published with the final SCC, SCN, and SCM under subparagraph (A) if feasible, and in any event by no later than June 1, 2022, to revise methodologies for calculating the SCC, SCN, and SCM, to the extent that current methodologies do not adequately take account of climate risk, environmental justice, and intergenerational equity.

(iii)  Methodology.  In carrying out its activities, the Working Group shall consider the recommendations of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine as reported in Valuing Climate Damages: Updating Estimation of the Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide (2017) and other pertinent scientific literature; solicit public comment; engage with the public and stakeholders; seek the advice of ethics experts; and ensure that the SCC, SCN, and SCM reflect the interests of future generations in avoiding threats posed by climate change.

Sec. 6. Revoking the March 2019 Permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. (a) On March 29, 2019, the President granted to TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. a Presidential permit (the “Permit”) to construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the international border of the United States and Canada (the “Keystone XL pipeline”), subject to express conditions and potential revocation in the President’s sole discretion. The Permit is hereby revoked in accordance with Article 1(1) of the Permit.

(b)  In 2015, following an exhaustive review, the Department of State and the President determined that approving the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the U.S. national interest.  That analysis, in addition to concluding that the significance of the proposed pipeline for our energy security and economy is limited, stressed that the United States must prioritize the development of a clean energy economy, which will in turn create good jobs.  The analysis further concluded that approval of the proposed pipeline would undermine U.S. climate leadership by undercutting the credibility and influence of the United States in urging other countries to take ambitious climate action.

(c)  Climate change has had a growing effect on the U.S. economy, with climate-related costs increasing over the last 4 years.  Extreme weather events and other climate-related effects have harmed the health, safety, and security of the American people and have increased the urgency for combatting climate change and accelerating the transition toward a clean energy economy.  The world must be put on a sustainable climate pathway to protect Americans and the domestic economy from harmful climate impacts, and to create well-paying union jobs as part of the climate solution. 

(d)  The Keystone XL pipeline disserves the U.S. national interest.  The United States and the world face a climate crisis.  That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.  At home, we will combat the crisis with an ambitious plan to build back better, designed to both reduce harmful emissions and create good clean-energy jobs.  Our domestic efforts must go hand in hand with U.S. diplomatic engagement.  Because most greenhouse gas emissions originate beyond our borders, such engagement is more necessary and urgent than ever.  The United States must be in a position to exercise vigorous climate leadership in order to achieve a significant increase in global climate action and put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.  Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.

Sec. 7. Other Revocations. (a) Executive Order 13766 of January 24, 2017 (Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects), Executive Order 13778 of February 28, 2017 (Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” Rule), Executive Order 13783 of March 28, 2017 (Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth), Executive Order 13792 of April 26, 2017 (Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act), Executive Order 13795 of April 28, 2017 (Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy), Executive Order 13868 of April 10, 2019 (Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth), and Executive Order 13927 of June 4, 2020 (Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities), are hereby revoked. Executive Order 13834 of May 17, 2018 (Efficient Federal Operations), is hereby revoked except for sections 6, 7, and 11.

(b)  Executive Order 13807 of August 15, 2017 (Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects), is hereby revoked.  The Director of OMB and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall jointly consider whether to recommend that a replacement order be issued.

(c)  Executive Order 13920 of May 1, 2020 (Securing the United States Bulk-Power System), is hereby suspended for 90 days.  The Secretary of Energy and the Director of OMB shall jointly consider whether to recommend that a replacement order be issued.

(d)  The Presidential Memorandum of April 12, 2018 (Promoting Domestic Manufacturing and Job Creation Policies and Procedures Relating to Implementation of Air Quality Standards), the Presidential Memorandum of October 19, 2018 (Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West), and the Presidential Memorandum of February 19, 2020 (Developing and Delivering More Water Supplies in California), are hereby revoked. 

(e)  The Council on Environmental Quality shall rescind its draft guidance entitled, “Draft National Environmental Policy Act Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” 84 Fed. Reg. 30097 (June 26, 2019).  The Council, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, shall review, revise, and update its final guidance entitled, “Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews,” 81 Fed. Reg. 51866 (August 5, 2016).

(f)  The Director of OMB and the heads of agencies shall promptly take steps to rescind any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies, or portions thereof, including, if necessary, by proposing such rescissions through notice-and-comment rulemaking, implementing or enforcing the Executive Orders, Presidential Memoranda, and draft guidance identified in this section, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented in a manner consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

THE WHITE HOUSE,
January 20, 2021.


Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

22 December, 2020

You may not have noticed, but the US Congress just passed the biggest climate-related bill in long time, with measures to help save the ozone layer and speed progress on solar, wind and nuclear energy, battery storage and carbon capture. It’s big news, though it’s been overshadowed by the pandemic and resulting economic disaster. Everyone is focused on another portion of the 5593-page Consolidated Appropriations Act: namely, Division M, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

This is important. We’ll get through this pandemic, though the US at least has been doing a bad job so far. Global warming will be a much tougher test of our resolve. So it’s good to see this step toward recognizing its gravity.

• Sarah Kaplan and Dino Grandoni, Stimulus deal includes raft of provisions to fight climate change, Washington Post, 21 December 2020.

In one of the biggest victories for U.S. climate action in a decade, Congress has moved to phase out a class of potent planet-warming chemicals and provide billions of dollars for renewable energy and efforts to suck carbon from the atmosphere as part of the $900 billion coronavirus relief package.

The legislation […] wraps together several bills with bipartisan backing and support from an unusual coalition of environmentalists and industry groups.

It will cut the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals used in air conditioners and refrigerators that are hundreds of times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide. It authorizes a sweeping set of new renewable energy measures, including tax credit extensions and new research and development programs for solar, wind and energy storage; funding for energy efficiency projects; upgrades to the electric grid and a new commitment to research on removing carbon from the atmosphere. And it reauthorizes an Environmental Protection Agency program to curb emissions from diesel engines.

The legislation also includes key language on the “sense of Congress” that the Energy Department must prioritize funding for research to power the United States with 100 percent “clean, renewable, or zero-emission energy sources” — a rare declaration that the nation should be striving toward net-zero carbon emissions.

“This is perhaps the most significant climate legislation Congress has ever passed,” said Grant Carlisle, a senior policy adviser at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The HFC measure, which empowers the EPA to cut the production and use of HFCs by 85 percent over the next 15 years, is expected to save as much as half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century. Scientists say the world needs to constrain the increase in the average global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial times to avoid catastrophic, irreversible damage to the planet. Some places around the globe are already experiencing an average temperature rise beyond that threshold.

Advocates say the $35 billion of new funding for renewable technology and energy efficiency in the legislation will also help reduce pollution that is driving global warming and provide a much-needed boost to federal energy programs that haven’t been updated since 2007.

“It doesn’t have regulations or mandates in it,” Sasha Mackler, director of the energy project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said of the energy package. “But from the bottom up it’s advancing the technology that’s needed. … This is definitely a bill that creates the enabling conditions for decarbonization.”

Support among lawmakers for the package suggests that tax incentives and research funding may be a rare area of common ground between two parties that have been divided on climate change.

Despite President Trump’s numerous efforts to roll back climate regulations, leading Republicans backed the package, which has been a top priority for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) for years. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) helped craft the bipartisan agreement to scale down polluting refrigerants.

“These measures will protect our air while keeping costs down for the American people,” Barrasso, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement Monday.

Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), an ally of President-elect Joe Biden and co-sponsor of the HFC provision, called it “a watershed moment” that bodes well for lawmakers interested in working with the incoming administration on climate change.

“The debate on whether climate change is real is over. It is real. It’s not getting better,” Carper said in a recent interview. “Our Republican colleagues, they get it, for the most part.”

The agreement comes on the heels of a major United Nations climate report, which found that nations’ current plans to reduce greenhouse gasses are just one-fifth of what’s needed to avoid catastrophic warming.

If leaders invest heavily in green infrastructure and renewable energy as part of coronavirus stimulus spending, the world could trim as much as 25 percent from its expected 2030 emissions, the U.N. report said.

Democrats and environmental groups say the legislation is not quite the sweeping “green stimulus” that’s needed. Though it meets Biden’s call to extend tax incentives for solar and wind generation and provide more money for clean energy research, it falls short of his requests for aggressive subsidies for electric vehicles and new requirements that utilities eliminate their contributions to global warming by 2035.

It also excludes a provision from earlier versions of the bill that would have set voluntary standards for energy efficiency in buildings — something that could significantly curb emissions from cities.

“Let’s be clear: Are these provisions enough to meet the demands of the science? No,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y). “But are they a significant step in the right direction? Yes.”

The HFC rule lays the groundwork for the United States to sign onto the Kigali Amendment, an international agreement in which more than 100 nations committed to replacing the chemicals with refrigerants that have a smaller climate impact. Signed in the final days of the Obama administration, the treaty was never submitted by Trump for ratification by the Senate. By voting to curb the climate pollutant now, Congress has eased the path for approval once Biden takes office.

Included in the energy package are roughly $4 billion for solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal research and development; $1.7 billion to help low-income families install renewable energy sources in their homes; $2.6 billion for the Energy Department’s sustainable transportation program; and $500 million for research on reducing industrial emissions.

It also authorizes $2.9 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a program that funds high-risk, high-reward research and that Trump has sought to eliminate multiple times.

The increased funding is expected to make emerging clean-energy technology cheaper and more widespread. This is especially significant for ideas that have proved effective but are struggling to make the jump to commercial viability.

“This is an opportunity to not only make significant advances in climate action and reducing HFCs, but to help maintain leadership of U.S. technology and our competitiveness in that global market,” said Marty Durbin, an energy lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest corporate lobbying group in Washington.

In a boon for renewable energy companies, Congress extended tax credits for wind and solar and introduced a new credit for offshore wind projects, which Heather Zichal, chief executive of the American Clean Power Association, called “America’s largest untapped clean energy source.” One Department of Energy analysis suggested that developing just 4 percent of the total U.S. offshore wind capacity could power some 25 million homes and reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by almost 2 percent.

But many green groups were critical of provisions dedicating more than $6 billion to efforts to remove carbon from the air and store it, as well as funding for enhanced oil recovery projects, which reuse carbon dioxide to flush residual oil from existing wells.

“It just perpetuates the fossil fuel system,” said Jean Su, an attorney and director of the energy justice program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If you pass something like this, you’re not doing the best we can do in terms of transforming our energy system.”

Others see carbon capture as a necessary tool for mitigating emissions from sources that aren’t easily decarbonized, such as air travel. The bill directs the energy secretary to estimate “the magnitude of excess carbon dioxide” that needs to be removed from the air to stabilize the climate.

The legislation includes more than $11 billion for nuclear energy [….]


Ceres

18 December, 2020

On 11 December 2020, Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit that works with investors on climate change, announced that a consortium of 30 investors managing $9 trillion in assets have committed to investing to support the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This is what the 30 investors signed:

The Net Zero Asset Managers Commitment

In line with the best available science on the impacts of climate change, we acknowledge that there is an urgent need to accelerate the transition towards global net zero emissions and for asset managers to play our part to help deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement and ensure a just transition.

In this context, my organisation commits to support the goal of net zero greenhouse gas (‘GHG’) emissions by 2050, in line with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C (‘net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner’). It also commits to support investing aligned with net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

Specifically, my organisation commits to:

a) Work in partnership with asset owner clients on decarbonisation goals, consistent with an ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner across all assets under management (‘AUM’).
b) Set an interim target for the proportion of assets to be managed in line with the attainment of net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.
c) Review our interim target at least every five years, with a view to ratcheting up the proportion of AUM covered until 100% of assets are included.

In order to fulfil these commitments my organisation will:

For assets committed to be managed in line with the attainment of net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner (under commitment b)

1) Set interim targets for 2030, consistent with a fair share of the 50% global reduction in CO2 identified as a requirement in the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C.
2) Take account of portfolio Scope 1 & 2 emissions and, to the extent possible, material portfolio Scope 3 emissions.
3) Prioritise the achievement of real economy emissions reductions within the sectors and companies in which we invest.
4) If using offsets, invest in long-term carbon removal, where there are no technologically and/or financially viable alternatives to eliminate emissions.
5) As required, create investment products aligned with net zero emissions by 2050 and facilitate increased investment in climate solutions.

Across all assets under management

6) Provide asset owner clients with information and analytics on net zero investing and climate risk and opportunity.
7) Implement a stewardship and engagement strategy, with a clear escalation and voting policy, that is consistent with our ambition for all assets under management to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.
8) Engage with actors key to the investment system including credit rating agencies, auditors, stock exchanges, proxy advisers, investment consultants, and data and service providers to ensure that products and services available to investors are consistent with the aim of achieving global net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.
9) Ensure any relevant direct and indirect policy advocacy we undertake is supportive of achieving global net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

Accountability

10) Publish TCFD disclosures, including a climate action plan, annually, and submit them to the Investor Agenda via its partner organisations for review to ensure the approach applied is based on a robust methodology, consistent with the UN Race to Zero criteria, and action is being taken in line with the commitments made here.

We recognise collaborative investor initiatives including the Investor Agenda and its partner organisations (AIGCC, CDP, Ceres, IGCC, IIGCC, PRI, UNEPFI), Climate Action 100+, Climate League 2030, Paris Aligned Investment Initiative, Science Based Targets Initiative for Financial Institutions, UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, among others, which are developing methodologies and supporting investors to take action towards net zero emissions. We will collaborate with each other and other investors via such initiatives so that investors have access to best practice, robust and science based approaches and standardised methodologies, and improved data, through which to deliver these commitments.

We also acknowledge that the scope for asset managers to invest for net zero and to meet the commitments set forth above depends on the mandates agreed with clients and clients’ and managers’ regulatory environments. These commitments are made in the expectation that governments will follow through on their own commitments to ensure the objectives of the Paris Agreement are met, including increasing the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions, and in the context of our legal duties to clients and unless otherwise prohibited by applicable law. In some asset classes or for some investment strategies, agreed net zero methodologies do not yet exist. Where our ability to align our approach to investment with the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is, today, constrained, we commit to embark with determination and ambition on a journey, and to challenge and seek to overcome the constraints we face.


US Fusion Reactor Plan

10 December, 2020

A while back I mentioned the SPARC fusion reactor, a relatively new design. What about more traditional approaches to fusion? Here’s a good article about the state of funding for these in the US:

• Adrian Cho, U.S. physicists rally around ambitious plan to build fusion power plant, Science, 8 December 2020.

Here’s the start:

U.S. fusion scientists, notorious for squabbling over which projects to fund with their field’s limited budget, have coalesced around an audacious goal. A 10-year plan presented last week to the federal Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee is the first since the community tried to formulate such a road map in 2014 and failed spectacularly. It calls for the Department of Energy (DOE), the main sponsor of U.S. fusion research, to prepare to build a prototype power plant in the 2040s that would produce carbon-free electricity by harnessing the nuclear process that powers the Sun.

The plan formalizes a goal set out 2 years ago by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and embraced in a March report from a 15-month-long fusion community planning process. It also represents a subtle but crucial shift from the basic research that officials in DOE’s Office of Science have favored. “The community urgently wants to move forward with fusion on a time scale that can impact climate change,” says Troy Carter, a fusion physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who chaired the planning committee. “We have to get started.”

Impact climate change… with a prototype in the 2040s? Don’t hurry yourselves too much, folks! But you might want to read this:

• Coral Davenport, Major climate report describes a strong risk of crisis as early as 2040, New York Times, 2018 October 7.

INCHEON, South Korea — A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040—a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

Thanks to Keith Harbaugh for pointing out the article in Science.


US Environmental Policy (Part 2)

12 November, 2020

On his first day in office, President-elect Biden plans to have the US rejoin the Paris climate accord. He has also pledged to sign ten executive orders on his first day in office:

• Requiring aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations.

• Using the Federal government procurement system—which spends $500 billion every year—to drive towards 100% clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles.

• Ensuring that all U.S. government installations, buildings, and facilities are more efficient and climate-ready, harnessing the purchasing power and supply chains to drive innovation.

• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation—the fastest growing source of U.S. climate pollution—by preserving and implementing the existing Clean Air Act, and developing rigorous new fuel economy standards aimed at ensuring 100% of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electrified and annual improvements for heavy duty vehicles.

• Doubling down on the liquid fuels of the future, which make agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change. Advanced biofuels are now closer than ever as we begin to build the first plants for biofuels, creating jobs and new solutions to reduce emissions in planes, ocean-going vessels, and more.

• Saving consumers money and reduce emissions through new, aggressive appliance- and building-efficiency standards.

• Committing that every federal infrastructure investment should reduce climate pollution, and require any federal permitting decision to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

• Requiring public companies to disclose climate risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains.

• Protecting biodiversity, slowing extinction rates and helping leverage natural climate solutions by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030.

• Protecting America’s natural treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters, establishing national parks and monuments that reflect America’s natural heritage, banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.

According to article in today’s Washington Post:

In a sign of how Biden has already elevated the issue, he discussed the topic with every European head of state with whom he spoke on Tuesday, including the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Ireland. Biden has started frequently referring to the climate “crisis,” suggesting a heightened level of urgency.

A team of former Obama administration officials and experts have created a 300-page blueprint laying out a holistic approach to the climate while avoiding some of the pitfalls that hampered President Barack Obama, who shared some of the same goals but was unable to enact all of them. Dubbed the Climate 21 Project, it took a year and a half to develop and was delivered recently to Biden’s transition team. The document outlines how the incoming administration could restructure aspects of the government to move faster on global warming.

For more, see:

Climate 21 Project.


US Environmental Policy (Part 1)

8 November, 2020

This blog does not allow discussion of partisan politics. But I can still list some ways in which US environmental policy will change if Biden becomes president.

First and foremost, the US will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

Besides leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trump administration did many other things that didn’t require approval from Congress:

• Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Kendra Pierre-Louis, The Trump administration is reversing nearly 100 environmental rules. Here’s the full list, New York Times, 15 October 2020.

Here’s the list. Biden can reverse or halt all these actions without approval from Congress:

Air pollution – completed:

  1. Weakened Obama-era fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars and light trucks.
    E.P.A. and Transportation Department
  2. Revoked California’s ability to set stricter tailpipe emissions standards than the federal government.
    E.P.A.
  3. Withdrew the legal justification for an Obama-era rule that limited mercury emissions from coal power plants.
    E.P.A.
  4. Replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have set strict limits on carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, with a new version that would let states set their own rules.
    Executive Order; E.P.A.
  5. Canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions.
    E.P.A.
  6. Revised and partially repealed an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions on public lands, including intentional venting and flaring from drilling operations. A federal court struck down the revision in July 2020, calling the Trump administration’s reasoning “wholly inadequate” and mandating enforcement of the original rule. However, the Obama-era rule was later partially struck down in a separate court case, during which the Trump administration declined to defend it.
    Interior Department
  7. Withdrew a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters, and later proposed codifying the looser standards.
    E.P.A.
  8. Revised a program designed to safeguard communities from increases in pollution from new power plants to make it easier for facilities to avoid emissions regulations.
    E.P.A.
  9. Amended rules that govern how refineries monitor pollution in surrounding communities.
    E.P.A.
  10. Weakened an Obama-era rule meant to reduce air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas.
    E.P.A.
  11. Weakened oversight of some state plans for reducing air pollution in national parks.
    E.P.A.
  12. Relaxed air pollution regulations for a handful of plants that burn waste coal for electricity.
    E.P.A.
  13. Repealed rules meant to reduce leaking and venting of powerful greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons from large refrigeration and air conditioning systems.
    E.P.A.
  14. Directed agencies to stop using an Obama-era calculation of the social cost of carbon, which rulemakers used to estimate the long-term economic benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
    Executive Order
  15. Withdrew guidance directing federal agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews. But several district courts have ruled that emissions must be included in such reviews.
    Executive Order; Council on Environmental Quality
  16. Revoked an Obama executive order that set a goal of cutting the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over 10 years.
    Executive Order
  17. Repealed a requirement that state and regional authorities track tailpipe emissions from vehicles on federal highways.
    Transportation Department
  18. Lifted a summertime ban on the use of E15, a gasoline blend made of 15 percent ethanol. (Burning gasoline with a higher concentration of ethanol in hot conditions increases smog.)
    E.P.A.
  19. Changed rules to allow states and the E.P.A. to take longer to develop and approve plans aimed at cutting methane emissions from existing landfills.
    E.P.A.
  20. Withdrew a proposed rule aimed at reducing pollutants, including air pollution, at sewage treatment plants.
    E.P.A.
  21. Relaxed some Obama-era requirements for companies to monitor and repair leaks at oil and gas facilities, including exempting certain low-production wells – a significant source of methane emissions – from the requirements altogether. (Other leak regulations were eliminated.)
    E.P.A.

Air pollution – in progress:

  1. Eliminated Obama-era methane emissions standards for oil and gas facilities and narrowed standards limiting the release of other polluting chemicals known as “volatile organic compounds” to only certain facilities. A federal court temporarily halted the rollback from going into effect after environmental groups and several states filed suit.
    E.P.A.
  2. Proposed revisions to standards for carbon dioxide emissions from new, modified and reconstructed coal power plants, eliminating Obama-era restrictions that, in effect, required them to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.
    E.P.A.
  3. Began a review of emissions rules for power plant start-ups, shutdowns and malfunctions. One outcome of that review: In February 2020, E.P.A. reversed a requirement that Texas follow emissions rules during certain malfunction events.
    E.P.A.
  4. Proposed a rule limiting the ability of individuals and communities to challenge E.P.A.-issued pollution permits before a panel of agency judges.
    E.P.A.

Drilling and extraction – completed:

  1. Made significant cuts to the borders of two national monuments in Utah and recommended border and resource-management changes to several more.
    Presidential Proclamation; Interior Department
  2. Lifted an Obama-era freeze on new coal leases on public lands. In April 2019, a judge ruled that the Interior Department could not begin selling new leases without completing an environmental review. In February 2020, the agency published an assessment that concluded restarting federal coal leasing would have little environmental impact.
    Executive Order; Interior Department
  3. Finalized a plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States.
    Congress; Interior Department
  4. Approved construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. (The Obama administration had halted the project, with the Army Corps of Engineers saying it would explore alternative routes.) The pipeline is embroiled in a lengthy legal battle, but has been allowed to continue operating by the Army Corps of Engineers even though a federal court reversed the Corps’ decision to allow the pipeline to run along its current path.
    Executive Order; Army
  5. Rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands.
    Interior Department
  6. Scrapped a proposed rule that required mines to prove they could pay to clean up future pollution.
    E.P.A.
  7. Withdrew a requirement that Gulf oil rig owners prove they can cover the costs of removing rigs once they stop producing.
    Interior Department
  8. Moved the permitting process for certain projects that cross international borders, such as oil pipelines, to the office of the president from the State Department, exempting them from environmental review.
    Executive Order
  9. Changed how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission considers the indirect effects of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews of pipelines.
    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  10. Revoked an Obama-era executive order designed to preserve ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters in favor of a policy focused on energy production and economic growth.
    Executive Order
  11. Loosened offshore drilling safety regulations implemented by the Obama after following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, including reduced testing requirements for blowout prevention systems.
    Interior Department

Drilling and extraction – in progress

  1. Proposed opening most of America’s coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling, but delayed the plan after a federal judge in 2019 ruled that reversing a ban on drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans was unlawful. Ahead of the 2020 election, Mr. Trump announced he would exempt from drilling coastal areas around Florida, a crucial battleground state, Georgia and South Carolina.
    Interior Department
  2. Repealed an Obama-era rule governing royalties for oil, gas and coal leases on federal lands, which replaced a 1980s rule that critics said allowed companies to underpay the federal government. A federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s repeal, but another court froze the original rule pending litigation.
    Interior Department
  3. Proposed easing the approval process for oil and gas drilling in national forests by curbing the power of the Forest Service to review and approve leases, among other changes.
    Agriculture Department; Interior Department
  4. Withdrew proposed restrictions on mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska, despite concerns over environmental impacts on salmon habitat, including a prominent fishery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has so far denied a permit for a proposed project, known as the Pebble Mine, noting it “could have substantial environmental impacts,” but left the door open for a revised plan.
    E.P.A.; Army
  5. Proposed revising regulations on offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels in the Arctic that were developed after a 2013 accident. The Interior Department previously said it was “considering full rescission or revision of this rule.”
    Executive Order; Interior Department
  6. Proposed opening more land for drilling in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, a vast swath of public land on the Arctic Ocean. The Obama administration had designated about half of the reserve as a conservation area.
    Interior Department
  7. Finalized a plan to allow logging and road construction in Tongass National Forest, Alaska, by exempting the area from a Clinton-era policy known as the roadless rule, which applied to much of the national forest system.
    Interior Department
  8. Approved the Keystone XL pipeline rejected by President Barack Obama, but a federal judge blocked the project from going forward without an adequate environmental review process. The Supreme Court in July 2020 upheld that ruling, further delaying construction of the pipeline.
    Executive Order; State Department
  9. Approved the use of seismic air guns for gas and oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. The Obama administration had denied permits for such surveys, which can kill marine life and disrupt fisheries. However, the Trump administration’s permits to allow seismic surveys expired following a protracted lawsuit, ending the possibility of seismic air gun surveys in the Atlantic in the near term. Companies would need to restart the months-long permitting process.
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Infrastructure – completed:

  1. Weakened the National Environmental Policy Act, one of the country’s most significant environmental laws, in order to expedite the approval of public infrastructure projects, such as roads, pipelines and telecommunications networks. The new rules shorten the time frame for completing environmental studies, limit the types of projects subject to review, and no longer require federal agencies to account for a project’s cumulative effects on the environment, such as climate change.
    Council on Environmental Quality
  2. Revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects that required the government to account for sea level rise and other climate change effects.
    Executive Order
  3. Relaxed the environmental review process for federal infrastructure projects.
    Executive Order
  4. Overturned an Obama-era guidance that ended U.S. government financing for new coal plants overseas except in rare circumstances.
    Executive Order; Treasury Department
  5. Revoked a directive for federal agencies to minimize impacts on water, wildlife, land and other natural resources when approving development projects.
    Executive Order
  6. Revoked an Obama executive order promoting climate resilience in the northern Bering Sea region of Alaska, which withdrew local waters from oil and gas leasing and established a tribal advisory council to consult on local environmental issues.
    Executive Order
  7. Reversed an update to the Bureau of Land Management’s public land-use planning process.
    Congress
  8. Withdrew an Obama-era order to consider climate change in the management of natural resources in national parks.
    National Park Service
  9. Restricted most Interior Department environmental studies to one year in length and a maximum of 150 pages, citing a need to reduce paperwork.
    Interior Department
  10. Withdrew a number of Obama-era Interior Department climate change and conservation policies that the agency said could “burden the development or utilization of domestically produced energy resources.”
    Interior Department
  11. Eliminated the use of an Obama-era planning system designed to minimize harm from oil and gas activity on sensitive landscapes, such as national parks.
    Interior Department
  12. Withdrew Obama-era policies designed to maintain or, ideally, improve natural resources affected by federal projects.
    Interior Department

Infrastructure – in progress:

  1. Proposed plans to speed up the environmental review process for Forest Service projects.
    Agriculture Department

Animals – completed:

  1. Changed the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, making it more difficult to protect wildlife from long-term threats posed by climate change.
    Interior Department; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  2. Ended the automatic application of full protections for ‘threatened’ plants and animals, the classification one step below ‘endangered’ in the Endangered Species Act.
    Interior Department
  3. Relaxed environmental protections for salmon and smelt in California’s Central Valley in order to free up water for farmers.
    Executive Order; Interior Department
  4. Overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands.
    Interior Department
  5. Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges.
    Congress
  6. Reversed an Obama-era rule that barred using bait, such as grease-soaked doughnuts, to lure and kill grizzly bears, among other sport hunting practices that many people consider extreme, on some public lands in Alaska.
    National Park Service; Interior Department
  7. Amended fishing regulations to loosen restrictions on the harvest of a number of species.
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  8. Removed restrictions on commercial fishing in a protected marine preserve southeast of Cape Cod that is home to rare corals and a number of endangered sea animals. The Trump administration has suggested changing the management or size of two other marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean.
    Executive Order; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  9. Proposed revising limits on the number of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles that can be unintentionally killed or injured with sword-fishing nets on the West Coast. (The Obama-era rules were initially withdrawn by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but were later finalized following a court order. The agency has said it plans to revise the limits.)
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  10. Loosened fishing restrictions intended to reduce bycatch of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. Nonprofits have filed a lawsuit challenging the rollback.
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  11. Overturned a ban on using parts of migratory birds in handicrafts made by Alaskan Natives.
    Interior Department

Animals – in progress:

  1. Proposed weakening critical habitat protections under the Endangered Species Act by making it easier to exclude certain areas, including for public-works projects, such as schools and hospitals, and for public lands leased to non-government businesses.
    Interior Department
  2. Opened nine million acres of Western land to oil and gas drilling by weakening habitat protections for the sage grouse, an imperiled bird. The Idaho District Court temporarily blocked the measure. The Montana District Court also invalidated the directive, nullifying 440 oil and gas leases, but the ruling is on hold pending appeal.
    Interior Department

Water pollution – completed:

  1. Scaled back pollution protections for certain tributaries and wetlands that were regulated under the Clean Water Act by the Obama administration. (A federal judge in Colorado halted implementation of the rule within the state, but it is in effect elsewhere.)
    E.P.A.; Army
  2. Revoked a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams.
    Congress
  3. Weakened a rule that aimed to limit toxic discharge from power plants into public waterways.
    E.P.A.
  4. Weakened a portion of the Clean Water Act to make it easier for federal agencies to issue permits for federal projects over state objections if the projects don’t meet local water quality standards, including for pipelines and other fossil fuel facilities.
    Executive Order; E.P.A. holding areas, which can spill their contents because they lack a protective underlay.
    E.P.A.
  5. Withdrew a proposed rule requiring groundwater protections for certain uranium mines. Recently, the administration’s Nuclear Fuel Working Group proposed opening up 1,500 acres outside the Grand Canyon to nuclear production.
    E.P.A.

Water pollution – in progress:

  1. Proposed doubling the time allowed for utilities to remove lead pipes from water systems with high levels of lead.
    E.P.A.
  2. Attempted to weaken federal rules regulating the disposal and storage of coal ash waste from power plants, but a court determined the original rules were already insufficient to protect the environment. The E.P.A. then proposed a new rule that would allow unlined coal ash ponds, previously deemed unsafe, to continue operating.
    E.P.A.
  3. Proposed a regulation limiting the scope of an Obama-era rule under which companies had to prove that large deposits of recycled coal ash would not harm the environment.
    E.P.A.

Toxic substances and safety – completed:

  1. Rejected a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to developmental disabilities in children. In 2020, the E.P.A. also rejected its own earlier finding that the pesticide can cause serious health problems. (Several states have banned use of the pesticide and its main manufacturer said it would stop producing the product because of shrinking demand.)
    E.P.A.
  2. Narrowed the scope of a 2016 law mandating safety assessments for potentially toxic chemicals like dry-cleaning solvents. The updated rules allowed the E.P.A. to exclude some chemical uses and types of exposure in the review process. In November 2019, a court of appeals ruled the agency must widen its scope to consider full exposure risks, but watchdog groups say the agency has not done so in some assessments.
    E.P.A.
  3. Reversed an Obama-era rule that required braking system upgrades for “high hazard” trains hauling flammable liquids like oil and ethanol.
    Transportation Department
  4. Changed safety rules to allow for rail transport of highly flammable liquefied natural gas.
    Transportation Department

Toxic substances and safety – in progress:

  1. Proposed limiting pesticide application buffer zones that are intended to protect farmworkers and bystanders from accidental exposure.
    E.P.A.
  2. Announced a review of an Obama-era rule lowering coal dust limits in mines. The head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration said there were no immediate plans to change the dust limit but has extended a public comment period until 2022.
    Labor Department

Other – completed:

  1. Repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have nearly doubled the number of light bulbs subject to energy-efficiency standards starting in January 2020. The Energy Department also blocked the next phase of efficiency standards for general-purpose bulbs already subject to regulation.
    Energy Department
  2. Changed a 25-year-old policy to allow coastal replenishment projects to use sand from protected ecosystems.
    Interior Department
  3. Limited funding of environmental and community development projects through corporate settlements of federal lawsuits.
    Justice Department
  4. Stopped payments to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations program to help poorer countries reduce carbon emissions.
    Executive Order
  5. Reversed restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks desgined to cut down on litter, despite a Park Service report that the effort worked.
    Interior Department

Other – in progress:

  1. Proposed limiting the studies used by the E.P.A. for rulemaking to only those that make data publicly available. (Scientists widely criticized the proposal, saying it would effectively block the agency from considering landmark research that relies on confidential health data.)
    E.P.A.
  2. Proposed changes to the way cost-benefit analyses are conducted under the Clean Air Act. Similar rules for the Clean Water Act and other environmental statutes are in development.
    E.P.A.
  3. Proposed freezing efficiency standards for residential furnaces and commercial water heaters designed to reduce energy use.
    Energy Department
  4. Created a product category that would allow some dishwashers to be exempt from energy efficiency standards.
    Energy Department
  5. Initially withdrew, and then delayed, a proposed rule that would inform car owners about fuel-efficient replacement tires.
    Transportation Department

Electric Cars

24 September, 2020

Some good news! According to this article, we’re rapidly approaching the tipping point when, even without subsidies, it will be as cheaper to own an electric car than one that burns fossil fuels.

• Jack Ewing, The age of electric cars is dawning ahead of schedule, New York Times, September 20, 2020.

FRANKFURT — An electric Volkswagen ID.3 for the same price as a Golf. A Tesla Model 3 that costs as much as a BMW 3 Series. A Renault Zoe electric subcompact whose monthly lease payment might equal a nice dinner for two in Paris.

As car sales collapsed in Europe because of the pandemic, one category grew rapidly: electric vehicles. One reason is that purchase prices in Europe are coming tantalizingly close to the prices for cars with gasoline or diesel engines.

At the moment this near parity is possible only with government subsidies that, depending on the country, can cut more than $10,000 from the final price. Carmakers are offering deals on electric cars to meet stricter European Union regulations on carbon dioxide emissions. In Germany, an electric Renault Zoe can be leased for 139 euros a month, or $164.

Electric vehicles are not yet as popular in the United States, largely because government incentives are less generous. Battery-powered cars account for about 2 percent of new car sales in America, while in Europe the market share is approaching 5 percent. Including hybrids, the share rises to nearly 9 percent in Europe, according to Matthias Schmidt, an independent analyst in Berlin.

As electric cars become more mainstream, the automobile industry is rapidly approaching the tipping point when, even without subsidies, it will be as cheap, and maybe cheaper, to own a plug-in vehicle than one that burns fossil fuels. The carmaker that reaches price parity first may be positioned to dominate the segment.

A few years ago, industry experts expected 2025 would be the turning point. But technology is advancing faster than expected, and could be poised for a quantum leap. Elon Musk is expected to announce a breakthrough at Tesla’s “Battery Day” event on Tuesday that would allow electric cars to travel significantly farther without adding weight.

The balance of power in the auto industry may depend on which carmaker, electronics company or start-up succeeds in squeezing the most power per pound into a battery, what’s known as energy density. A battery with high energy density is inherently cheaper because it requires fewer raw materials and less weight to deliver the same range.

“We’re seeing energy density increase faster than ever before,” said Milan Thakore, a senior research analyst at Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultant which recently pushed its prediction of the tipping point ahead by a year, to 2024.

However, the article also points out that this tipping point is of the overall lifetime cost of the vehicle! The sticker price of electric cars will still be higher for a while. And there aren’t nearly enough charging stations!

My next car will be electric. But first I’m installing solar power for my house. I’m working on it now.