WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will announce new climate change action he can take on his own just days after an influential Democratic senator dashed hopes for a sweeping legislative package of new environmental programs this year.
Biden will unveil the latest effort during a visit Wednesday to a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Mass., that is being converted to offshore wind generation. It is the epitome of the clean energy transition that Biden has sought but struggled to implement in the first 18 months of his presidency.
Wednesday’s executive actions include new initiatives to strengthen the domestic offshore wind industry, as well as efforts to help communities cope with high temperatures through programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to an official of the White House.
The trip comes as historic temperatures scorch Europe and the United States. Temperatures reached 115 degrees in Portugal, while wildfires raged in Spain and France, and Britain on Tuesday broke its record for the hottest temperature ever recorded. At least 60 million Americans could experience triple-digit temperatures over the next few days as cities around the US sweat more intense and longer-lasting heat waves that scientists blame on global warming.
The actions Biden announced Wednesday would not include a national emergency declaration to address the climate crisis, something that had been sought by activists and Democratic lawmakers after Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., last week scuttled talks on the long-delayed legislative package.
White House officials said the option remains under consideration. On Tuesday, spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre declined to outline a timetable for a decision, except to say no such order would be issued this week.
Gina McCarthy, Biden’s climate adviser, said the president is not “afraid” to treat climate as an emergency. She told CNN on Wednesday that he would announce a series of actions “over the next few weeks” to address the threat.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said he was “confident that the president is ultimately willing to do whatever it takes to deal with this crisis.”
“I think he made that clear in his statement last Friday, and I think coming to Massachusetts is a further articulation of that goal,” Markey told reporters Tuesday.
Biden has been under considerable pressure to issue an emergency climate declaration that would allow him to redirect federal resources to bolstering renewable energy programs that would help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The declaration could also be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, although such actions are likely to be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.
Jean-Pierre declined to elaborate on internal discussions about such a declaration, which would be similar to the one issued by Biden’s predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, who declared a national emergency to build a wall along the southern border when lawmakers refused to allocate money for this effort.
Last week, Biden promised significant executive action on climate after months of discussions between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., stalled. The West Virginia senator cited stubbornly high inflation as a reason for his hesitation, even though he has long championed energy interests in his coal- and gas-producing state.
For now, Manchin said he would only agree to a legislative package that supports subsidies to help people buy insurance under the 2010 health care law, as well as allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, which in will ultimately reduce the cost of drugs to consumers.
The White House has indicated that it wants Congress to pass this deal and that Biden will tackle the climate problem alone.
“I will use every power that I have as president to continue to fulfill my promise to move toward addressing global warming,” Biden told reporters over the weekend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after talks between Schumer and Manchin broke down.
On Wednesday, Biden will visit the former Brayton Point Power Plant, which closed in 2017 after burning coal for more than five decades. The plant will now become an offshore wind energy production site.
A new report says the U.S. and other major carbon-polluting nations are failing to keep promises to fight climate change. Among the top 10 carbon emitters, only the European Union has adopted policies close to or in line with international targets to limit warming to just a few more tenths of a degree, according to scientists and experts who track countries’ climate action.
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Biden to announce climate action at former Massachusetts coal plant.
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