We’re leading an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis.

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We’re leading an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis.

Join our work today to help us build a thriving and just clean energy future. 

Five Immediate Steps President Biden Can Take on Climate without Congress

Evergreen Explains: Five critical ways President Biden can forcefully address the climate crisis, with or without Senator Manchin’s blessing.

Left: © 2022 WEF/Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 // Right: Courtesy The White House

Last week Senator Joe Manchin abruptly closed the door to passing historic climate investments through budget reconciliation. In doing so, he betrayed the American public and the mandate given to the Democratic Senate to act on climate. He’s also made crystal clear the need for President Biden to use bold, unprecedented executive action to curb climate pollution and advance environmental justice.

President Biden has pledged to cut climate pollution by 50% by 2030, and reach 100% clean electricity by 2035. Without Congress’ support, the president must work harder than ever to hit those targets. If he fails, Biden will be setting the world on course for catastrophic global warming.

Senator Manchin has made the path to a liveable climate much steeper, and the president must mobilize every federal agency to make the climb. This memo lays out five critical ways President Biden can forcefully address the climate crisis, with or without Senator Manchin’s blessing.

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1. Expedite Adoption of Clean Air Act Standards to Reduce Pollution from Power Plants

President Biden and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan must act quickly to set new rules to limit carbon and other air pollution under the Clean Air Act. Despite the Supreme Court’s recent West Virginia v. EPA ruling that curtailed the agency’s authority, the EPA retains the power to set stringent standards for carbon pollution from new power plants (Section 111(B)), and existing plants (Section 111(D)). To ensure these rules are enacted during the first term of the Biden Administration, EPA must move quickly to finalize those standards this year—much more swiftly than the March 2023 timeline the administration suggested earlier this summer. In particular, New Source Performance Standards, under 111(B), are urgently needed to prevent the build-out of more than 200 proposed new uncontrolled fossil gas power plants.

Separately, there are eight other rules that the EPA can and must finalize to cut pollution from power plants. These rules are intended to protect public health from harmful conventional air pollutants, not to address climate change. But, they will have the secondary benefit of advancing environmental justice and cutting climate pollution. For example, the EPA must move to update the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone, setting a primary ozone standard of no higher than 60 parts per billion. And it should finalize a new national standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of no higher than 8 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) for the annual standard, and no higher than 25 μg/m3 for the 24-hour standard. Setting these tighter limits, consistent with the recommendations of expert medical organizations like the American Lung Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, will protect millions of Americans from harmful air pollution—especially vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, and people with asthma and heart conditions.

See 100CleanPower.com for more on the comprehensive, multi-pollutant agenda the EPA must pursue to put pollution from the power sector.

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2. End the Fossil Fuel Era by Phasing Out New Fossil Fuel Leasing and Rejecting New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Projects

To keep warming below catastrophic levels, we must urgently transition off of fossil fuels. There is no room for new fossil fuel infrastructure projects or leasing. President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland must swiftly and legally phase out all new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters. They should start by updating Interior’s draft five-year plan, released last month and now under public comment, to prohibit new offshore leasing. The administration has clear legal authority to finalize a plan that includes no new offshore leases and must move swiftly to do so. The administration must also utilize their clear authority to issue a coal leasing moratorium for new projects, stop extending existing coal leases, and phase out all new onshore oil and gas leasing.  

The Biden Administration must also utilize its authority to deny federal permits for major new fossil fuel projects, including: liquid natural gas (LNG) export facilities, major oil and gas projects like the Willow Project in the Western Arctic, pipelines including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and petrochemical facilities.  

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3. Issue New Rules and State Waivers to Promote Clean Trucks and Cars

President Biden and Administrator Regan must move full throttle ahead with aggressive standards, and other agency actions, to confront air pollution from cars and trucks. With transportation accounting for nearly a third of domestic emissions, and zero emissions technology being more accessible than ever, rapidly electrifying the national fleet of light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles must be a top priority. 

The EPA holds broad authority to regulate tailpipe carbon pollution from cars and trucks, as well as a range of other harmful criteria and conventional pollution, and must use this authority to drive the transition to 100% clean vehicles. Most urgently, the EPA must act to finalize a strong Clean Trucks Rule, and approve California’s waiver that will empower it and other allied states to implement new standards that will cut emissions from heavy-duty vehicles even faster than the federal standards.

Earlier this year EPA proposed a Clean Trucks Rule that would go into effect in 2027 and cut nitrogen oxide pollution by 50% by 2045, and greatly reduce particulate matter. The rule’s proposed Option 1 would result in the majority of on road heavy and medium-duty vehicles turning over to electric vehicles by 2045. In this same proposal EPA also suggested a weaker rule, Option 2, which would result in a slower clean vehicle transition. It is incumbent upon Administrator Regan to move forward with Option 1 to cut emissions from the heavy and medium-duty vehicle sector as fast as possible. EPA’s Option 1 proposal will prevent thousands of emergency room visits, which will disproportionately benefit Black, brown, Indigenous and low-income communities, who are most impacted by deadly tailpipe pollution. The Option 1 proposal is necessary both to achieve President Biden’s climate agenda and reduce health impacts on the most overburdened communities. 

In addition, Administrator Regan must also use the EPA’s authority to approve California’s vehicle emissions waiver which allows the state to set more aggressive emissions reduction standards than the EPA, which other states then can join in adopting. Approving California’s waiver will allow at least 6 states to move forward with the Advanced Clean Truck Rule and the Heavy Duty Omnibus Rule, which will cut emissions from heavy-duty vehicles years ahead of EPA’s schedule. These more ambitious standards will be life-saving, preventing thousands of deaths and billions in health care costs in the coming years in California alone.

In addition, in the coming months, the EPA must also promulgate Clean Car Standards, for vehicle model years 2027 and beyond. This will move the country more rapidly towards 100% zero-emission new light-duty vehicle sales.

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4. Finalize a Strong SEC Climate Disclosure Rule and Use the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to Mitigate Climate Risk

President Biden, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler must act to mitigate climate-driven risks to the economy. That effort should include SEC promulgating a strong climate disclosure rule that includes mandatory disclosure of Scope 3 emissions. The rule would be a key first step toward mitigating the risk of a climate crash by arming investors with the information they need to make climate-smart choices—but it is just that—a first step. Secretary Yellen must also direct the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to address structural climate risk, including more rigorous analysis of the effects of climate change on the insurance industry, greater coordination with climate experts, and more. 

Secretary Yellen’s recent remarks dismissing FSOC’s role in the climate fight are outrageous, especially in light of FSOC’s own report laying out the need for more aggressive climate action. The Treasury Department must engage more proactively in limiting the grave financial risks posed by climate change.

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5. Promulgate Pollution Standards to Transform the Industrial and Buildings Sectors

President Biden and Administrator Regan must also develop new rules and enforce existing regulations to confront carbon and criteria air pollution from industry and buildings. These two sectors accounted for 24% and 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution in 2020, respectively. They are also major sources of harmful local air pollution that causes premature death and exacerbates asthma and cardiac disease—especially in environmental justice communities. The Biden Administration must begin to take steps, through the EPA and the Clean Air Act, to clean up these sectors.

In the buildings sector, the EPA should use Clean Air Act standards to reduce hazardous pollutants, like nitrogen oxide (NOx)—a key ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone—from building appliances. The nation’s fossil fuel appliances emit 425,000 tons of NOx—more than all of America’s fossil gas power plants combined. This pollution causes billions in public health and climate damages. Recent scientific studies also show that appliances like gas stoves also emit a range of carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene. Clean Air Act standards aimed at reducing these emissions from building appliances, including especially furnaces and water heaters, would reduce local air pollution that harms public health. It would also have a secondary benefit of reducing climate pollution.

EPA Administrator Regan should also pursue the establishment and enforcement of pollution standards covering heavily-polluting industries, including chemical factories, steel mills, cement manufacturers, and other industrial facilities. For example, the administration should quickly complete stringent rulemaking for the Good Neighbor rule, which would limit conventional air pollution from key industrial sources. The agency should also move aggressively to enforce National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rules for cancer-causing pollutants, under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, against heavy industrial facilities. And the EPA should begin to promulgate Section 111 New Source Performance Standards, eventually followed by Existing Source Performance Standards, for carbon pollution from the highest-emitting industrial sectors. Through these interlocking regulatory efforts, Administrator Regan can aggressively pursue emissions reductions from one of the hardest-to-abate sectors.

President Biden Must Act on Climate Now

President Biden must marshal every tool at his disposal to fight the climate crisis as part of a “whole of government” climate action agenda. After months of broken promises and needless delays from Senator Manchin, the White House can’t delay any longer. The president must pursue ambitious executive action. 

For more on the policy pathways that the Biden Administration must use to tackle climate pollution and confront the climate crisis, see Evergreen’s memo, 6 Ways President Biden Can Use Executive Action to Take on the Climate Crisis.