WASHINGTON – President Biden will ask federal agencies on Wednesday to determine to what extent the ban on new oil and gas drilling on federal lands should be extended, as part of a series of executive orders that will effectively launch his program to combat climate change, two people with knowledge of the president’s plans said Monday.
A possible ban on new drilling permits would fulfill a campaign promise that has infuriated the oil industry and has become a central theme in the struggle for the critical condition of the Pennsylvania battlefield, where the method of extracting natural gas known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydraulic fracturing, has become important. business.
The move is the most important of several that Mr Biden announced on Wednesday, the two said. The president will also order the government to conserve 30% of all federal land and water by 2030, create a task force to assemble a government-wide action plan to reduce emissions. greenhouse gas emissions, to issue a memorandum making climate change a national security priority. Mr Biden will also create several new commissions and positions in government focused on environmental justice and environmentally responsible job creation, including one to help displaced coal communities.
Programs and proclamations are meant to signal that climate change is back on the government’s agenda, more important than ever. What they will not provide, at least again, is a significant and rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“Can this administration do much on its own? Yes, ”said Jonathan H. Adler, professor of law at Case Western Reserve University. “But,” he added, “if the norm, however, is atmospheric stabilization, I’m skeptical that the administration can do anything close enough administratively.
This will require legislation, Mr. Adler said, “especially if a premium is put on achieving emission reductions as soon as possible.
A White House spokesperson declined to comment on the orders, and two people close to the administration noted that final decisions regarding them were still being refined.
The likelihood that Congress could pass large chunks of Mr. Biden’s $ 2 trillion climate change agenda is only slightly greater now that Democrats hold the slimmest possible majority in a 50-50 Senate. There is little hope of adopting a carbon tax or other mechanism to put a price on greenhouse gas pollution, which would cause cost-conscious companies to emit less.
Without legislation, the administration will have to rely on the regulatory process to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and fireplaces and improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles, but it also takes time. It cannot be done by decree.
“The tons of carbon pollution in the air is what matters in the end,” said Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University and co-chair of a group that provided plans climate policy to the Biden administration.
Profeta said Wednesday’s orders were an important first step.
“The Biden administration can do a lot to start putting the country on the right track with its own authorities,” Profeta said. Wednesday, he said, “start the process.”
The expected crackdown on new oil and gas leases goes beyond Mr. Biden’s actions on inauguration day, which ended the Home Office and other agencies’ power to issue leases or permits drilling for 60 days, while the administration examined the legal and policy implications of the current federal mineral lease program.
The new policy will ask agencies to consider how much federal land and water should be kept from mining and drilling or set aside for renewable energy production, according to two people familiar with the order, who spoke out. on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the policy publicly.
Fossil fuel extraction from public lands and waters accounts for nearly a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and Mr Biden has campaigned to end new drilling as a key to the fight against climate change.
Much of the environmental community applauded the plan, although some said Mr. Biden did not go far enough.
“It is vital that President Biden permanently ban all further extraction of fossil fuels, including fracking, on federal lands and waters,” said Mitch Jones, political director of Food & Water Watch, an environmental group.
Throughout the campaign, the left wing of the Democratic Party has pressed Mr. Biden to call for a nationwide ban on fracking, including on private land, where most fractures are practiced. He refused, but the oil and gas industry remained skeptical. His move on inauguration day led to the condemnation of the sector and some landowners.
“Your order is a direct attack on our economy, our sovereignty and our right to self-determination,” the Ute Indian tribe of Utah wrote to the Home Office in a letter issued by the American Petroleum Institute.
The climate task force that Mr Biden is expected to create will develop a plan for what administration officials like to call a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to climate change, and will focus on two main areas: environmental justice and creation. jobs.
It will ask every agency to factor climate change into government decisions, from federal government procurement and financial settlements to lawsuits, experts said.
It will also create a number of councils and committees to try to ensure that poor and minority communities as well as Americans who live in coal countries see the economic benefits of clean energy policies.
Mr Biden is also expected to revive and strengthen an Obama-era presidential memorandum in 2016 making climate change a national security priority and forcing intelligence agencies to incorporate climate change into their analyzes of threats to national security. He was quickly dismissed by the Trump administration.
Alice Hill, who oversaw climate planning for the National Security Council under the Obama administration, said the president’s leadership was needed because senior politicians calling for this analysis and intelligence officials preparing it don’t often do not have the experience of thinking. climatic risks.
“When I was in the White House, the risks of climate change were rarely discussed,” Ms. Hill said.
She and others have said Mr Biden needs to go further, potentially converting the memorandum into an executive order that has more power to order agencies to take actions such as establishing strategies and policies to cope. climate-related threats.
“The climate reality today is higher temperatures, stronger storms, more destructive forest fires, rising sea levels, acidifying oceans and prolonged drought,” said Sherri Goodman, under -Assist Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security under Obama and now a Senior Fellow in the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program.
“We need a climate security plan for America that protects America’s climate infrastructure and puts climate and clean energy innovation at the forefront,” she said.
Christophe Flavelle contribution to reports.