Climate activists set to pressure Biden with Congress divided

Climate activists set to pressure Biden with Congress divided

The limited prospects, at best, for major climate legislation under a divided Congress has left many environmental groups hoping to ramp up pressure on the Biden administration to push forward more protective regulations of the environment.

While there are legislative climate issues to watch with a Democratic GOP House and Senate, activists say the best chance for progress has shifted to action that could be taken on the administrative front.

“We do not see Congress as the way forward for major progress over the next 12 months and we believe there is much more ground we can cover in implementation, executive action and states,” said Holly Burke, spokeswoman for environmental group Evergreen Action. The hill.

“We’ll be keeping our eye on the ball when it comes to Congress, but we’re not going to invest most of our time there,” she added.

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Democrats and Republicans are bitterly divided on climate change, with the GOP voting unanimously against sweeping legislation known as the Cut Inflation Act, which represented the biggest steps a US Congress has taken on the question.

Proponents would have sought to build on that victory with a Democratic Senate and House, but now see the regulation and implementation of this climate and tax bill as their next frontiers.

“I don’t want to ease off on Congress to make sure we continue to make the modest progress that is once again possible with appropriations. [and] through the Farm Bill, but in terms of the primary focus of what the Sierra Club is looking to advance the climate agenda, it’s absolutely [Inflation Reduction Act] implementation, which goes hand in hand with executive action,” said Melinda Pierce, Legislative Director of the Sierra Club.

“Hopefully we’ll see quite a bit from the Biden administration on the administrative rules that are slowly moving forward,” she added. “I think we’re going to see a whole bunch come to fruition at the end of this year and definitely next year.”

Key regulations the Biden administration is expected to advance are pollution and climate standards for power plants and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as limits on how much soot and smog can be in the air.

Pierce said air quality regulations like these are “crucially important” to his organization.

Burke said his organization would pay particular attention to a set of regulations relating to the electricity sector, as decarbonizing this area is key to reducing emissions across the economy.

Regarding the implementation of the Cut Inflation Act, Pierce said she would monitor how federal agencies handle the scale and speed of her investments, while ensuring that States take full advantage of the bill.

Energy industry advisers say they will remain focused on Congress, particularly with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) seeking to push forward permit reform legislation.

Manchin’s package aims to speed up the approval process for energy projects, including fossil fuels and renewables.

His efforts were backed by Democratic leaders as part of a deal to get him to back the sweeping climate bill, and Manchin worked to get Republicans to sign up.

Several have indicated that they are interested in working with him, although this is a matter that has a good chance of spilling over into next year from the lame session.

“The narrow margin, along with Republicans controlling the agenda in the House, I think, creates a better environment because they’ve already had a more consistent position with Senator Manchin,” said Frank Maisano, who represents the House. both fossil and renewable energy customers. at Bracewell LLP.

“There is a real opportunity to build consensus on something like allowing reform that is essential if you want to have a quick and just energy transition,” Maisano said.

He added that a recent court ruling that limited the scope of the EPA’s authority over power plant regulation “creates more impetus to go back and let Congress take the ball and run with it.” .

Environmental organizations should also follow the fight for permits. Many have expressed opposition due to the potential for strengthening pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure.

Neil Chatterjee, a senior adviser at Hogan Lovells, said the makeup of Congress can lead to significant bipartisan legislation that could be “crazier.”

He suggested that community solar power, energy efficiency measures, energy storage, electric transmission and a border carbon tax are the types of policies he could see a bipartisan Congress. sustain.

“I actually think in the next couple of years we could see the emergence again of substantial lobbying and not so much political lobbying which has really dominated the landscape,” said Chatterjee, who is the former president. of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and also a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“I really think you could see a comeback from the technical experts,” he added.

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