Biden’s First Round of Executive Orders Protect Environment

ANWR. Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

Just hours after being sworn in, President Biden began reversing the previous administration’s planet-damaging environmental policy. His Day One executive orders and directives lay the groundwork for taking on the climate crisis and putting environmental, public health, and scientific priorities back in place. 

  • Rejoining Paris Climate Agreement: After (re)accepting the agreement by executive order yesterday, the U.S. is back in the global effort to get emissions under control. It takes 30 days to officially rejoin, but the order signals America’s return to international climate diplomacy after years of rejecting it. 
  • Stopping Keystone XL pipeline: By revoking the presidential permit granted by Trump, President Biden effectively canceled the oil and gas pipeline that would have carried tar sands crude from Canada. Putting the Keystone pipeline to rest means those along its route are safe from one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet.  
  • Protecting public lands and waters: To restore the protections and boundaries to national monuments, President Biden plans to review Trump’s downsizing of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in Utah and will direct the Department of the Interior to reconsider the Trump order that allowed commercial fishing the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. President Biden is also expected to place a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, another 180-degree turn after the Trump administration issued last-minute drilling leases this week.
  • Strengthening fuel efficiency standards: Transportation is the biggest source of emissions in the U.S., the new administration plans to strengthen the car fuel efficiency standards Trump loosened.

Why This Matters: The climate crisis is here and already harming people’s health and livelihoods. The Biden administration can meet the urgency of the moment with bold action and move the U.S. toward a sustainable future. These executive orders are the beginning: hitting reset and preparing for more forward-looking climate policies to come. 

Other orders: Even executive orders that aren’t explicitly climate policy are good for the environment: stopping construction of the border wall halts the destruction of the wilderness areas it was tearing through. Taking on systemic racism means facing the “converging economic, health, and climate crises that have exposed and exacerbated inequities,” as the executive order states. 

To that end, the Climate Justice Alliance, a collective of frontline communities across the country, is calling for an additional 25 executive actions the Biden administration can take to protect and invest in the communities hit hardest by climate change. That list includes a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure construction in environmental justice communities and transitioning all federal government operations to renewable energy by 2025.

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