From water pollution to increasingly fierce wildfires, President Joe Biden took office after years of worsening environmental problems. In December 2020, our friends at U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center released a report, First Things to Fix, identifying five actions the Biden administration could set in motion on day one to protect the environment. The organizations also identified 15 additional actions that would have a significant impact on conserving our natural spaces, cleaning up our air and water, and combating the climate crisis.
The progress report finds that despite the need to rebuild many federal agencies and tackle the COVID-19 crisis, the Biden administration has already taken steps to restore many key environmental protections. And, President Biden has made bold strides to safeguard our lands and oceans, get the lead out of drinking water, go big on offshore wind and more. However, of our initial list of 20 near-term actions, only one is complete: Rejoining the Paris climate accord.
The Biden administration’s agenda for the next 100 days should continue to focus on undoing the many harmful Trump administration rollbacks by restoring popular environmental policies listed below.
First things to fix
Additional environmental priorities
The Biden administration has also taken the following actions to protect our environment:
- Committed to protect 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030
- Issued a one-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing
- Pledged to reduce global warming emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 (compared to 2005) as part of America’s commitments under the newly rejoined Paris climate accords
- Announced an ambitious plan to expand offshore wind, which could power more than 10 million American homes
- Completed a final environmental impact statement for Vineyard Wind, an offshore wind project with the capacity to power 400,000 homes
- Announced future rulemaking on water pollution from PFAS, which are toxic “forever chemicals”
- Appointed cabinet secretaries and leaders throughout the administration with strong environmental backgrounds, including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
- Proposed infrastructure investments to expand electric transportation, remove lead from drinking water, strengthen our electric grid and more
- Vowed to electrify the federal fleet
- Reversed last-minute Trump administration policies that undermined the Land and Water Conservation Fund
- Canceled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline
More information on actions in progress
Strengthen fuel economy and emissions standards and reaffirm California’s authority to set stronger vehicle emissions standards: The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it would begin to undo the Trump administration’s attempt to block states such as California from setting stronger tailpipe emissions standards than the federal government. The Department of Transportation also proposed withdrawing a Trump-era rule that blocked states from setting their own standards.
- Next steps: The EPA and DOT proposed rules are open to public comment and then can be finalized by the Biden administration. The Biden administration also plans to begin rulemaking to reverse the Trump administration’s lower federal fuel economy and emissions standards for vehicles.
Withdraw from Trump’s offshore drilling plan: President Biden and the Department of Interior have taken actions to protect America’s coasts from offshore drilling including instating a one-year moratorium on new offshore leasing; beginning a comprehensive review of the department’s oil and gas leasing and permitting; and holding a public forum on oil and gas leasing.
- Next steps: The Biden administration should withdraw the Trump administration’s draft offshore drilling plan and take new leasing off the table completely.
Update regulations to control methane emissions: Members of Congress have introduced resolutions in both chambers to reinstate regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
- Next steps: The Senate is expected to vote the week of April 26th.
Support ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocols to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons: Upon taking office, President Biden directed the State Department to prepare the necessary treaty package. The State Department sent the package to the White House in late March.
- Next steps: The Senate needs to ratify the treaty by a two-thirds vote.
Get the lead out of drinking water: President Biden proposed an infrastructure plan that includes funding to replace all lead pipes.
- Next steps: Congress would need to approve this funding. The Biden administration is also receiving public input on how to strengthen the Lead & Copper Rule to stop widespread contamination of our drinking water.
Stop oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: President Biden placed a temporary moratorium on all federal activities related to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
- Next steps: To permanently stop oil and gas leasing in the Arctic refuge, Congress needs to undo legislation requiring lease sales.
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|The Student PIRGs is a network of student run and student funded organizations that work with professional staff at colleges and universities to make sure our peers have the skills, opportunities and training they need to create a better, more sustainable future for all of us. Our chapters on over 35 campuses provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry and more. For nearly 50 years we’ve helped students to get organized, mobilized and energized so they can continue to be on the cutting edge of positive change.|