Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Biden introduces his environmental team, calling climate change an ‘existential threat of our time’

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President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday introduced key members of the team he is assembling to fulfill his pledge to tackle climate change, calling them bright and skilled.

Climate change is “the existential threat of our time,” said Biden, and the people he appointed to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality and the energy and interior departments will be “ready from day one.” . “

“We need a unified national response to climate change. We have to face the moment with the urgency it demands, as we would any national emergency, ”Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Del.

While Republicans are expected to hold at least 50 Senate seats, likely condemning the chances of sweeping climate and environmental legislation, Biden will rely heavily on officials to advance his clean energy agenda through ‘federal regulations. He proposed a $ 2 trillion climate plan to promote clean energy, called for an emissions-free power grid in 15 years and pledged to reduce oil drilling on federal lands.

“We have to get to work and we have to get to work right away,” Biden said.

He pledged to promote the use of electric vehicles by asking the federal government to buy more and install 500,000 charging stations. He also called for the construction of 1.5 million energy-efficient homes and social housing, and 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells to be plugged.

He said that the United States join the Paris climate agreement and establish a climate-focused civilian conservation body to put people to work.

The candidates he presented represent seasoned government leaders and regulators as well as environmentalists the progressives had demanded. Among them, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will head the Department of Energy, North Carolina’s environmental regulator. Michael regan to be administrator of the EPA and democratic representative Deb Haaland at the head of the department of the interior. Biden also hired a lawyer Brenda Mallory to chair the Environment Quality Council, Gina McCarthy as national climate advisor and Ali Zaidi as deputy.

If confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American to serve in the U.S. cabinet, Mallory would be the first African American to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Regan would be the first black man to serve in as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Lisa Jackson was the agency’s first African-American administrator, under former President Barack Obama.

Neither McCarthy nor Zaidi will need Senate approval to become climate advisers, and the rest are expected to be largely confirmed. However, Republicans have already signaled that they will carefully review Haaland and Regan’s records, including their past opposition to fossil fuel projects. Haaland, for example, has backed a ban on the hydraulic fracturing process that propelled oil and gas production in the United States – a position that worries oil industry leaders but has been heralded by environmentalists.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, an oil and coal-rich Republican from North Dakota, warned candidates could see “a bit of a fight,” in an interview with Fox Business Network on Friday.

The New Mexico Independent Petroleum Association said Thursday it was “seriously concerned” about Haaland’s appointment, adding that it “has repeatedly shown contempt for our industry.”

The Home Office manages the national park system and oversees grazing, recreation, energy development, and other activities on about a fifth of America’s land. The department holds the title of over 56 million acres of tribal nations trust and its Office of Indian Affairs works directly with 578 federally recognized Native American tribes.

Read more: Republican threatens ‘brawl’ against Biden’s EPA, domestic choices

Haaland, 60, and a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, a 7,700-member tribe west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has garnered praise from environmental groups and tribal leaders. They say she would bring a deep commitment to protect the land to an agency in charge of 500 million acres. She has just been elected for her second term in the House of Representatives.

Seeming to hold back tears as she accepted Biden’s appointment, she noted that a former Home Secretary had pledged to “civilize or exterminate” the American Indians.

“We will ensure that decisions made inside are once again driven by science,” she said.

McCarthy, 66, who now heads the Natural Resources Defense Council, pioneered the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants during his nearly four years as head of the EPA under the Obama administration.

“I’m here today because climate change is not just a threat to the planet – it’s a threat to our health and well-being,” McCarthy said. “Overcoming this threat is the fight of our lives and our success will require the commitment of every community, every sector of our nation and every country in the world.”

Mallory, 63, was previously the general counsel for the Council on Environmental Quality under former President Barack Obama. Most recently, she was the director of regulatory policy for the Southern Environmental Law Center, a group that uses litigation to promote clean air, safe water and wildlife conservation.

“It is essential that we deploy smart, humane policies to help communities step off the edge and improve the health, safety and prosperity of all,” Mallory said.

Regan, 44, has previously worked at the EPA for about a decade, although he is currently secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. He has led initiatives to tackle environmental inequalities and climate change, and he has been at the center of disputes over new pipelines and pollution clean-up happening nationwide.

Citing Biden’s campaign motto to “build back better,” Regan said Saturday that “we need a practical approach from industry and individuals, finding common ground to build back better.

Granholm, 61, was an energy advisor for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and has been credited with expanding Michigan’s clean energy industry during her two terms as governor. She was Michigan Attorney General from 1999 to 2003, Advisor to the Pew Charitable Trusts Clean Energy Program, and Professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Granholm said on Saturday that the energy department would take action to ensure that a transition to clean energy translates into jobs for Americans.

“We can win these jobs for American workers with the right policies,” she said.

Zaidi, assistant secretary for energy and environment to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is a longtime advisor to Biden who helped negotiate the Paris climate deal. He is originally from Pakistan.

More political cover of Fortune:


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