July 20, 2022

President Biden Announces Executive Actions to Combat Climate Change

Holland & Knight Alert
Isabel C. Lane | Beth A. Viola

President Joe Biden announced a series of executive actions to combat climate change during a July 20, 2022, speech in Somerset, Massachusetts, from the base of a former coal-fired power plant where offshore wind energy cables are soon to be manufactured. Citing climate as a "clear and present danger" and "existential threat" while lamenting the lack of congressional action, the president touted the economic opportunity and environmental benefits that can be realized by a transition to clean energy.

Addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation, the actions announced Wednesday include opening the Gulf of Mexico and other waters to offshore wind development, and increasing funding for climate resiliency and expanding access to cooling resources for low-income households, respectively. In his announcement, President Biden referenced the importance of "good-paying union jobs" in the context of this transition.

Notably absent from this executive action was a declaration of a "climate emergency," which would grant additional executive powers to the president to use federal resources to combat climate change's effects. While climate hawks have advocated for the move, skeptics have suggested the declaration would be politically untimely. Gas prices have slid downward roughly 10 percent in the last month, though they remain high relative to prices prior to the start of the Russian-Ukrainian War. A Gallup poll conducted in June 2022 showed that 67 percent of respondents said gas prices had caused financial hardship in their households. Fuel prices will continue to be a focal point for elected leaders as the 2022 midterm elections draw nearer.

The executive actions announced by President Biden include:

  • Moving toward opening the Gulf of Mexico to offshore wind development, with the U.S. Department of the Interior taking a key step forward by releasing a draft Wind Energy Areas and Environmental Assessment for sites off the coasts of Galveston, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. The president further directed the Secretary of the Interior to advance offshore wind development off the shores of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
  • Allocating $2.3 billion in funding for resiliency improvements under the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • Expanding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve access to cooling equipment for low-income households, by offering guidance to states, tribes and territories on options including:
    • increasing funding for cooling assistance through the American Rescue Plan
    • establishing community cooling centers, and
    • purchasing, distributing or loaning efficient air conditioning equipment, evaporative coolers and electric heat pumps
  • Continuing proactive outreach and technical assistance to stakeholders from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on days when the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, building on the National Emphasis Program announced in April.

For more information or questions on the president's economic actions on climate change, contact the authors or members of Holland & Knight's EnergyClimate ChangeClean Technology or Environment teams.

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem, and it should not be substituted for legal advice, which relies on a specific factual analysis. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult the authors of this publication, your Holland & Knight representative or other competent legal counsel.

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