With President-elect Biden set to begin his term later this month, 2021 will mark a major shift in federal environmental policy, though the incoming administration will face its share of challenges as it looks to advance its new agenda. In its last year in office, the Trump administration enacted a flurry of rulemaking and executive action in an effort to lock in its environmental policy objectives beyond 2020, some of which were covered in detail in our 2020 forecast. For example, the Trump administration finalized significant changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), enacted the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, and undertook important rulemaking efforts under the Clean Air Act. Though the Biden administration will be coming into office with different policy priorities, some of the Trump administration’s recent rulemaking and policy efforts may make advancing its environmental agenda more difficult. To that end, this federal forecast provides an overview of the anticipated actions that an incoming Biden administration may take and more detailed coverage of the federal actions that will remain important in 2021.
President-elect Biden has made clear that climate change will be a major priority in the incoming administration’s overall environmental policy objectives. Accordingly, Biden has announced his intention to reenter the Paris Climate Agreement on the first day of his presidency. The United States formally entered the Paris Agreement under the Obama administration on September 3, 2016 and committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. After the Trump administration repealed and replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the United States gave notice of its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on November 4, 2019, and the withdrawal formally took effect one year later on November 4, 2020. Although it is unclear whether the Biden administration will commit to the same greenhouse gas emissions reductions as originally proposed in 2016, Biden has made clear his priority to cooperate internationally on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Biden transition team also has signaled a renewed emphasis on environmental justice. During his presidential campaign, Biden pledged to prioritize environmental justice initiatives across the federal government, including through the creation of an environmental and climate justice division within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Additionally, Biden has announced cabinet-level nominees to the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) that indicate the incoming administration’s prioritization of addressing environmental justice concerns.
An early opportunity for the Biden administration to advance both climate change and environmental justice priorities may be through a rollback of the Trump administration’s recent overhaul of NEPA’s…
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