How Biden can act immediately on climate change
Climate advocates will continue to fight for permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure to prevent both greenhouse gas emissions and pollution that endangers local residents. In fact, by making it harder for the EPA to enact groundbreaking regulations, the court’s decision underscores the importance of a strategy that has previously halted projects involving billions of dollars in capital investment. These include, most famously, the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, but they also include the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast and PennEast pipelines. In both cases, the developers dropped the projects shortly after winning Supreme Court cases.
It is a detailed and demanding strategy led by frontline organizations fighting for a healthy climate across the country. Fueled by soaring profits, gas companies have proposed an alarming 21 liquefied natural gas export facilities, including 19 along the Gulf Coast. This massive expansion of export capacity would increase US gas production by at least 40%, significantly undermining global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Activists in Louisiana have called on Biden to slow the proliferation of these toxic and dangerous terminals.
Climate advocates are stepping up on this permit-by-permit strategy, and the Biden administration can deploy two invaluable tools to support their efforts. Also, reports that he might declare a climate emergency are encouraging, but the devil is in the details.
First, the administration can deny licensing for every gas export facility, every new oil or gas pipeline, every petrochemical facility, every gas-fired power plant. And when state agencies issue federal permits for new fossil fuel projects, those agencies must be consistently overruled by the EPA.
The Biden administration’s discretion over permitting was evident in news reports that approval for the Mountain Valley pipeline had been offered to Democratic US Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia to urge him to support congressional action on climate change. Biden must now pursue a whole-of-government strategy to limit greenhouse gas emissions. This means that every agency – the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of the Interior and many others – must be enlisted to play a leading role in this fight.
Biden also needs to commit much more to aggressively enforcing environmental laws against polluters who violate regulations regarding conventional pollutant releases, rather than caving in to industry lobbying for weak enforcement. If existing pollution requirements were more heavily enforced in places where the oil and gas industry dominates, such as the infamous “Cancer Alley” and the Houston Ship Canal, it would end industry freedom on color polluting communities and significantly reduce potent greenhouse gases.
Biden’s climate credibility will now be judged both by domestic advocates and on the global stage by whether his administration refrains from issuing permits for new fossil fuel projects and firmly enforces existing regulations to limit pollution.
Only the president can make federal agencies work in tandem to fight climate change. Manchin removed one tool to fight climate change, and the Supreme Court removed another, but the tools that remain at the disposal of the most powerful person in the world can be very effective in reining in one of the most powerful industries. most powerful in the world. Biden must use all the tools at his disposal.
Larry Shapiro is associate director for program development at the Rockefeller Family Fund.