Biden pivots to executive action: ‘This is an emergency’

By Robin Bravender | 07/20/2022 04:23 PM EDT

President Joe Biden speaks about climate change and clean energy at Brayton Power Station, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in Somerset, Mass.

President Joe Biden speaks about climate change and clean energy at Brayton Power Station in Somerset, Mass., yesterday. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

President Joe Biden, attempting to salvage his climate change agenda, today announced executive actions to boost wind energy production and blunt the impacts of extreme heat.

The new moves come as part of a broader administration push to address climate change and its impacts after Biden’s latest legislative push on climate fizzled on Capitol Hill. The administration says the White House plans to roll out additional climate policies in the coming weeks.

“As president, I have a responsibility to act with urgency when our nation faces clear and present danger, and that’s what climate change is about,” Biden said during a speech at the site of a former Massachusetts coal-fired power plant that’s transitioning into a manufacturing site for wind energy parts.

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The White House announced today that the Interior Department is proposing the first wind energy areas in the Gulf of Mexico, which could entail 700,000 acres. Biden is also directing Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to advance wind energy development in the waters off the mid-Atlantic and southern Atlantic Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, the White House said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced $2.3 billion in funding for a program aimed at helping communities become more resilient to heat waves, drought, wildfires and other disasters.

And the Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidance to expand how a low-income housing assistance program can help keep households cool.

Biden stressed that he views climate change as an emergency, although he stopped short of declaring a national climate emergency, which would enable him to exert even more presidential power to address the issue (Greenwire, July 20).

“This is an emergency, and I will look at it that way,” Biden said. In the coming weeks, he said, he plans to use “the appropriate proclamations, executive orders and regulatory power” available to him.

Asked earlier today why the administration isn’t declaring a climate emergency, Biden’s national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, told reporters, “It was just a decision that we need to be thoughtful about this and we want to outline actions, not just declare things.”

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