EXECUTIVE

EXECUTIVE

While states and cities affect progress in the fight against climate change, meeting the scale and urgency of the crisis requires a holistic, nation-wide strategy that includes collaboration with international efforts. In other words, effective federal policy is essential  and the executive branch has profound effects on our progress — or lack thereof — mitigating and adapting to climate change.

On May 3, 2019, National Geographic Magazine published an updated timeline (dating back to March, 2017) of the Trump Administration’s first two years of environmental actions and policy changes. Although much of the piece focuses on deregulations, it covers executive orders as well, including two, signed on April 9, 2019, which smoothed the path for companies to build oil and gas pipelines and limit the tools states have to block them, not to mention Trump’s earlier order to increase logging of forests on federal land, signed on December 21, 2018, a day before the government shutdown. More recently (in late October 2020), when NG was following the presidential campaigns, they reported on what Trump was doing (and promising) and what Biden was promising if elected.  President Biden’s executive orders will be listed here as they take place.

During his last six years in office, Barack Obama flexed his executive powers to create numerous environmental regulations despite a Republican controlled Senate. While President Obama had a Democratic congressional majority his first two years in office, the immediacy of the 2008 economic crash distracted from the sweeping legislation to combat climate change that Obama had promised. When the Republicans took the Senate in 2010, leaving the Congress divided and paralyzed, Obama turned to executive orders to move the needle on climate change. He enacted rules to bring down emissions across the US economy and established more national monuments than any other president.

However, Obama’s reliance on executive power drew ire from his adversaries who argued sweeping regulations — like the Clean Power Plan, which expanded the 1970 Clean Air Act— exemplified an abuse of executive power. When the Republicans took the Presidency as well as the Senate in 2016, President Trump moved swiftly to deregulate Obama’s efforts. The very executive powers that allowed Obama to enact regulations helping to curb carbon emissions by nearly 10% between 2008 and 2015 allowed President Trump to strip those rules away.

In just four years, the Trump administration rolled back 98 environmental rules, with 14 more rollbacks in progress. This includes replacing the Clean Power Plan with a version that allows states to set their own rules, weakening fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks, and cancelling a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions . Ten Obama-era environmental rules that the Trump Administration attempted to reverse have been reinstated through lawsuits and other challenges. For example, the Trump Administration delayed publishing energy standards for household appliances, but were forced to do so when environmental groups sued.

The Executive branch plays a pivotal role in international diplomacy and has the potential to position the US as a leader in combatting climate change and moving towards resilience. For example, the Clinton Administration participated in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol, the first international greenhouse gas reduction effort. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration effectively withdrew US four years later. Similarly, the US joined the Paris Climate Accords in 2015 during the Obama administration and withdrew just two years later — a decision made by President Trump that took effect in November 2020.  President Biden’s website has extensive information about his plans to combat climate change.

On January 20th, 2021, President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden moved to rejoin the Paris Agreement — which will take 30 days to take effect. He also signed an executive order entitled, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” This establishes the Biden administration’s commitment to immediately work to confront both the causes and impacts of climate change by implementing policy guided by science. The order rolls back many actions taken by the Trump administration to loosen environmental standards and protections, and calls on all federal agency heads to review and “consider suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency actions” that may be inconsistent with Biden’s articulated policy. The order is divided into eight sections: (1) policy; (2) immediate review of environmental actions taken during President Trump’s term; (3) restoring national monuments; (4) Arctic refuge; (5) accounting for the benefits of reducing climate pollution; (6) revoking the March 2019 permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline; (7) other revocations; and (8) general provisions.

As directed by that Executive Order, major Federal agencies were required to develop an adaptation and resilience plan to address their most significant climate risks and vulnerabilities. On October 7, 2021, the White House announced the release of those plans. You can read them here.

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

Climate Change and U.S. Financial Regulators: Overview and Recent Actions

05/16/21
Under the Biden Administration,financial regulators have announced a range of new measuresto address financial risks associated with climate change. The Department of the Treasury, theSecurities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Federal Reserve have each…

Federal Action on Climate

10/09/20
Given the far-reaching nature of the climate challenge, effective federal policy is needed to achieve deep, long-term reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and to help strengthen climate resilience across the U.S. economy. Even in…

U.S. Climate Regulation Database

01/27/20
This is a database of regulations and other efforts undertaken by federal agencies to address the causes and impacts of climate change. Regulations administered by EPA are organized by topic; other materials are organized by their…

95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump

08/02/19
President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses.

A running list of how President Trump is changing environmental policy

05/03/19
The Trump administration has promised vast changes to U.S. science and environmental policy—and we’re tracking them here as they happen.

MORE NEWS

Oil and gas companies underreported methane leaks, new study shows

By Steven Mufson  Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar , Bloomberg News   06/08/22  
Big oil and gas companies have internal data showing that their methane emissions in the vast Permian Basin “are likely significantly higher than official data” reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, says a new report…

Biden to invoke Defense Production Act for clean energy

By Ben Geman and Andrew Freedman  Photo: Justin Merriman/Bloomberg via Getty Images   06/06/22  
President Biden will shield solar project developers from the costs of potential trade penalties and offer new federal support for domestic panel manufacturing, the White House said Monday.

FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Bold Executive Action to Spur Domestic Clean Energy Manufacturing

06/06/22  
Today’s clean energy technologies are a critical part of the arsenal we must harness to lower energy costs for families, reduce risks to our power grid, and tackle the urgent crisis of a changing climate.…

USPTO announces launch of Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program

06/03/22  
Under this pilot program, qualifying nonprovisional utility patent applications involving technologies that mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be advanced out of turn for examination (accorded special status) until a first action…

E.P.A., Reversing Trump, Will Restore States’ Power to Block Pipelines

By Lisa Friedman  Photo: Tim Gruber , The New York Times   06/02/22  
The Biden administration on Thursday will move to restore authority to states and tribes to veto gas pipelines, coal terminals and other energy projects if they would pollute local rivers and streams, reversing a Trump-era…

DOE launches grid interconnection initiative to cut ‘gridlock’ hampering clean energy progress

By Ethan Howland  Photo : Lovelyday12 , Getty Images   06/02/22  
In an effort to spur clean energy development, the U.S. Department of Energy is launching a program to improve the grid interconnection process through a partnership with utilities, grid operators, state and tribal governments, clean…

Undoing Trump, EPA to empower states and tribes to oppose pipelines

By Dino Grandoni  Photo : Orjan F. Ellingvag , Getty Images   06/02/22  
The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday it would seek to return authority to states to oppose gas pipelines, coal terminals and other projects that pose a threat to lakes, rivers and streams — reversing…

How President Biden Can Align the Federal Fossil Fuel Program to Deliver on Climate and Put People Over Profits

By Mattea Mrkusic, Lena Moffitt and Others   06/01/22  
This report will focus on one of the dirtiest uses of America’s federal public lands and waters: fossil fuel development. The U.S. federal government sells leases to private companies which allow them to extract oil,…

Biden wants to rebuild the EPA. He doesn’t have the money to do it.

By Dino Grandoni  Photo: Louie Palu , The Washington Post   05/31/22  
The issue wasn’t chemical manufacturers holding back information. Instead, part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s computer system used to store sensitive data provided by companies went down — and the agency didn’t have the IT…

U.S. SEC unveils rules to ensure ESG funds follow through on investments

By Katanga Johnson & Ross Kerber  Photo: Andrew Kelly , Reuters   05/26/22  
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday proposed a pair of rule changes aimed at stamping out unfounded claims by funds on their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) credentials, and enforcing more…

Biden Administration, Settling a Long Fight, Plans to Block a Mine in Alaska

By Coral Davenport  Photo: Acacia Johnson , New York Times   05/25/22  
The Biden administration on Wednesday took a major legal step toward protecting Bristol Bay in Alaska, one of the world’s most valuable sockeye salmon fisheries that also sits atop enormous copper and gold deposits long…

White House official promises regulatory review updates

By Kelsey Brugger  Photo: Chip Somodevilla , Getty Images   05/19/22  
Sam Berger — who recently joined the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs after serving on the White House pandemic response team — said the office is “putting regulatory modernization at the center of what…

85 House members add to Senate calls for an end to anti-circumvention solar investigation

By Lulia Gheorghiu  Photo: Megan Quinn , UtilityDive   05/19/22  
Some 85 U.S. House representatives wrote President Joe Biden on Tuesday asking him to expedite the anti-circumvention investigation into solar exports from Southeast Asia that has led to a number of delays and cancellations in…

DOE Announces $53 Million for Small Businesses Pursuing Clean Energy and Climate Solutions

05/18/22  
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $53 million in funding awards for diverse small businesses to pursue advanced scientific instrumentation and technologies to address climate change. The funding will support 259 projects across…

SEC to consider sustainable investing rules

By Avery Ellfeldt  Photo: Andrew Harnik   05/18/22  
The Securities and Exchange Commission is set to vote next week on rules that would crack down on the Wild West that has become environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing.

DOE Updates Mobile Home Efficiency Standards to Lower Household Energy Bills

05/18/22  
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today adopted new energy standards for manufactured housing — commonly referred to as single-section and multi-section mobile homes — that will help consumers save hundreds of dollars on their…

Justice Dept. Tries to Shift Environmental Justice Efforts From Symbolic to Substantive

By Glenn Thrush and Lisa Friedman  Photo: Audra Melton , The New York Times   05/12/22  
The Biden administration’s choice of Lowndes as the site of its first big environmental justice inquiry was based on the magnitude of the county’s problems. But it also sent a message. The county was a…

EPA blocks bid to review basis for climate regs

By Kevin Bogardus  Photo: Patrick Semansky , AP Photo   05/12/22  
Last month, the agency denied petitions by conservative-leaning think tanks and attorneys to reconsider its endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, records show, marking the second time EPA has dismissed those claims. The agency first denied…

How Congress is routing climate policy through the Army Corps of Engineers

By Jake Bittle  Photo: Paul Flipse , Getty Images   05/12/22  
Even as President Biden’s signature climate change bill languishes in the Senate, Congress is poised to spend billions of dollars on ambitious new projects that would help the U.S. adapt to climate change. A bill…

Biden pulls 3 offshore oil lease sales, curbing new drilling this year

By Anna Phillips  Photo: Eric Gay , AP   05/12/22  
The Interior Department confirmed Wednesday that it will not hold three oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska that had been scheduled to take place, taking…

White House alarmed that Commerce probe is ‘smothering’ solar industry

By Evan Halper  Photo: Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post   05/07/22  
Top climate officials in the Biden administration are warning that a federal investigation into alleged dodging of tariffs by Chinese suppliers has put the domestic solar industry in peril just as the United States is…

Energy Department announces oil buyback to replenish SPR

By Ben Lefebvre   05/05/22  
The actual purchases would be for deliveries after fiscal year 2023, in “future years when prices are anticipated to be significantly lower than they are today, and will represent a first tranche of purchases to…

Leader of Treasury’s Climate Hub touts ‘agitating’ role

By Avery Ellfeldt  Photo : Ben Hider , Getty Images   05/05/22  
John Morton was tapped last year to lead Treasury's first-ever "Climate Hub" as part of the administration's whole-of-government approach to climate change. A year later, the former Obama official and sustainable investing veteran says his…

Solar Industry ‘Frozen’ as Biden Administration Investigates China

By David Gelles  Photo: Kevin Frayer , Getty Images   04/29/22  
Around the country, solar companies are delaying projects, scrambling for supplies, shutting down construction sites and warning that tens of billions of dollars — and tens of thousands of jobs — are at risk.

Biden energy chief voices ‘deep concern’ about tariff impact on US solar goals

By Zack Budryk  Photo: Greg Nash   04/28/22  
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Thursday said she shares “deep concern” about the impact of potential solar energy tariffs on U.S. renewable energy goals.

Biden restores climate safeguards in key environmental law

By Dino Grandoni and Anna Phillips  Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News   04/19/22  
A final rule announced Tuesday by the White House will require agencies to assess the climate impact of roads, pipelines and other infrastructure.
EPA

EPA Releases New Memo Outlining Strategy to Equitably Deliver Clean Water Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

03/08/22  
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memorandum to guide collaborative implementation with state, local, and Tribal partners of $43 billion in water infrastructure funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. President Biden, with…

Biden Administration Sets Interim Greenhouse Pollution Cost Estimates

By Nexus Media   03/01/22  
The Biden administration announced it will use Obama-era calculations of the “social cost” of three greenhouse gas pollutants while an interagency working group calculates a more complete estimate, the White House announced Friday. Often described…

Interim Social Cost Of GHGs Halted By Judge

By Nexus Media   02/14/22  
A federal judge barred the Biden administration from using its interim revised social costs of greenhouse gas pollution in crafting regulatory policy on Friday. The ruling by Trump-appointee James Cain in a federal court in…
EPA

A Year of Accomplishments at EPA

01/20/22  
In the first year of the Biden-Harris Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took significant steps forward in tackling the climate crisis, advancing environmental justice, protecting the health and safety of communities across the country,…
EPA

A Year of Accomplishments at EPA

By Michael Regan   01/20/22  
One year ago today, President Biden took office and launched the most ambitious environmental agenda in our nation’s history. From restoring scientific integrity, to confronting climate change, to advancing environmental justice, the EPA team has…

Biden Orders Federal Vehicles and Buildings to Use Renewable Energy by 2050

By Lisa Friedman  Photo: Doug Mills , The New York Times   12/30/21  
President Biden on Wednesday set in motion a plan to make the federal government carbon neutral, ordering federal agencies to buy electric vehicles, to power facilities with wind, solar and nuclear energy, and to use…

Biden authorizes use of strategic oil reserves to combat high U.S. gasoline prices

By Jeff Stein and others  Photo: REUTERS/Richard Carson   11/23/21  
President Biden on Tuesday said he was releasing some U.S. oil reserves, part of a multilateral effort the White House is leading to reduce global prices.

Trump’s move of Bureau of Land Management HQ undercut diversity, watchdog finds

By Joshua Partlow  Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post   11/18/21  
As Trump officials were moving the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C., to Colorado two years ago, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a…

Biden unveils new rules to curb methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations

By Dino Grandoni and Others  Photo: Adrian Sanchez- Gonzalez , The Washington Post   11/02/21  
More than 100 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, which requires a 30 percent cut in methane emissions by 2030, one of the Biden administration’s priorities for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.…

White House proposes restoring key parts of landmark environmental law, reversing Trump

By Maxine Joselow  Photo: Jim Mone/AP   10/06/21  
The White House proposed restoring parts of one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws Wednesday, requiring agencies to conduct a climate analysis of major projects and give affected communities greater input into the process.
NPR

How John Kerry Hopes To Combat Climate Change

By Audie Cornish   08/11/21  
This week's U.N. climate report concludes that a certain amount of damage to the planet is now irreversible, that even the most dramatic cuts to carbon emissions can only maybe prevent the worst predicted effects…

In victory for Biden, U.S. Senate OKs $1.2T bipartisan infrastructure bill

By Jacob Fischler   08/10/21  
North Carolina’s Tillis and Burr defy Trump by helping to craft compromise legislation The U.S. Senate passed 69-30 on Tuesday a sweeping bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, a milestone for one of President Joe Biden’s…

John Kerry says Donald Trump destroyed the U.S.’s credibility on climate change

08/04/21  
Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry explained in an interview that former President Donald Trump’s actions caused other countries to be wary of trusting America on climate change.

After Trump, US researchers urge Biden to block political meddling in science

By Nidhi Subbaraman  Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty   08/04/21  
US researchers and science groups appealed to President Joe Biden’s administration last week to protect government science from political interference and to empower federal scientists to speak to the media and public. They made this…

The Easy Climate-Change Win that Rashida Tlaib Backs But Joe Biden Fails to Seize

By Julia Rock  Photo: Anna Moneymaker , Getty Images   08/02/21  
The Biden administration has signaled its commitment to tackling the financial risks posed by climate change through executive orders and key appointments. But advocates say the president is missing an easy opportunity for big climate…

The Biden Administration’s Embrace of Environmental Justice Has Made Wary Activists Willing to Believe

By Agya K. Aning  Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images   08/01/21  
Decades after emerging from the broader civil rights movement, setting itself apart from traditional environmentalism, flourishing in academia and wending through public discourse, the environmental justice movement has now achieved unprecedented prominence as activists work…

Biden Wants To Take On The Fossil-Fuel Industry. Dozens Of His Officials Are Invested In It

By Michela Tindera   05/11/21  
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden tried to distance himself from oil, gas and coal companies, pledging not to accept money from fossil-fuel firms. Dozens of those now serving in his administration, however, were less rigid about separating themselves from energy…

Biden’s executive orders on climate have broad public support

By Gary Yohe , Henry Jacoby , Richard Richels and Benjamin Santer   03/08/21  
Governing from the White House by executive actions – whether by executive orders or variations thereon – has its pluses and minuses.

Biden Meets Virtually With Canada’s Trudeau on Climate Change, Covid-19, Economic Recovery

By Gordon Lubold and Paul Vieira  Photo: Evan Vucci/AP   02/23/21  
Meeting marked Biden’s first one-on-one encounter as U.S. president with another world leader

Biden’s climate executive orders are a mini-Green New Deal

By Dana Nuccitelli   02/03/21  
Imagine a deployment of federal investments to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from various sectors including electricity, transportation, and agriculture, with the goal of creating millions of jobs and an eye on correcting environmental injustices…

Biden’s Climate Day Confronts A Tricky Question: What Should We Do About Mining?

By Alexander C. Kaufman  Photo by Patrick Fallon   01/28/21  
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders that paused new oil and gas leasing on federal lands, directed the government’s international financing entities to phase out funding for fossil fuel projects…

The Battle Takes Shape

By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman  Photo by Doug Mills   01/27/21  
President Biden on Wednesday signed a raft of executive orders on climate that focus on three main themes: job creation, environmental justice and weaving climate change into every facet of the government.
AP

Biden to pause oil and gas sales on public lands

By Matthew Daly   01/27/21  
President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands and waters, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the…

Biden, Emphasizing Job Creation, Signs Sweeping Climate Actions

By Lisa Friedman, Coral Davenport and Christopher Flavelle   01/27/21  
President Biden on Wednesday signed a sweeping series of executive actions — ranging from pausing new federal oil leases to electrifying the government’s vast fleet of vehicles — while casting the moves as much about…