President Joe Biden is expected to sign several executive actions related to climate on Wednesday, including issuing a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands, according to a person familiar with his plans.
The moratorium on new leases would fulfill a campaign promise by Biden. When issued, the halt on new leases will apply to federal land and water areas, but will not affect existing leases. It will expand an existing 60-day moratorium issued by Biden on his first day in office.
In addition, a draft plan of Wednesday’s plans obtained by CNN indicates that Biden could issue an executive order initiating regulatory actions that elevate climate change as a national security issue. The draft plan also states that the President could reestablish the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and issue a memorandum on scientific integrity. The plan suggests the administration will also announce data for the Climate Leaders’ Summit in April.
Biden is also expected to take action on protecting 30% of the country’s land and water by 2030, known as “30 by 30.”
The President is also expected to put forward a whole of government approach to fighting climate change Wednesday with a central focus on environmental justice, multiple people briefed on the matter told CNN.
In addition to creating an interagency working group to move away from fossil fuels, Biden is expected to instruct government agencies to come up with a plan to incorporate best environmental practices into their policies, the people said.
The President is also expected to address creating clean energy jobs quickly. Many critics of Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone Pipeline cite the tens of thousands of jobs that will be lost with the shutdown.
The moratorium “gives the country a chance to modernize the way we deploy our natural resources for developing energy,” said Josh Axelrod of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We can’t lock our children and grandchildren into decades more of the dirty fossil fuels of the past, and all the hazards and harms they bring to our public lands, oceans and coastal communities.”
Last week, Biden took a series of steps aimed at reprioritizing environmental climate issues. He halted more than 100 regulatory actions on the environment taken by the Trump administration, announced the US would rejoin the Paris climate agreement and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. He also said Monday that he plans to replace the federal government’s fleet of vehicles with American-made electric cars.
The ambitious climate plan Biden discussed during the presidential transition seeks to increase public investments for green infrastructure and end carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 and proposes broader public investment in green infrastructure, including $2 trillion for clean energy projects.
Biden had said on the campaign trail that he wanted to halt new oil and gas drilling on federal lands. And he had also said at a September CNN town hall that he supports the continued the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to open underground natural gas formations to cleaner kinds of energy.
Since last week’s swearing-in, the President has sought to highlight how his administration will take science more seriously than the past administration did.
On climate, Biden created two new roles — a new Cabinet-level presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, and a White House climate czar, Gina McCarthy.
But more broadly, Biden has moved to put more scientists front-and-center.
The administration has told reporters to expect more briefings by scientists and public health experts, not political appointees and the President, to explain the ongoing efforts to combat Covid-19. And the administration has also moved to elevate the job of Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to the Cabinet level.