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The Biden Administration’s Environmental Plan and Team Takes Shape

December 17, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden campaigned on reversing the Trump Administration’s regulatory reforms in the environmental arena and ramping up efforts to address climate change and environmental justice. Biden is currently working with his transition team to review potential nominees to head up the key environmental regulatory agencies and new climate leadership positions that he intends to create within the White House.

Biden’s campaign website included a detailed plan for a “Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice.” The plan promised to “sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform” related to climate. It also pledged to weigh climate concerns in federal infrastructure investment, require public companies to disclose climate risks, establish a federal agency to focus on climate, and called for an enforcement mechanism for carbon pollution. Separately, the campaign website specifically called for swift regulatory action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances in his environmental justice plan.

President-elect Biden has selected nominees for a several relevant appointments:

  • Climate Advisors - John Kerry and Gina McCarthy will lead the Biden Administration’s climate efforts abroad and domestically. As former Senator and Secretary of State, Kerry will head up such issues as the Paris Climate Accord and have a seat on the National Security Council. And as former EPA Administrator and current president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), McCarthy will ensure that climate policy and accountability is effectively coordinated across the federal government. 
  • White House Council on Environmental Quality – To lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) --- an office that recently finalized reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act implementation process --- Biden has chosen a former policy director at the Southern Environmental Law Center, Brenda Mallory. Mallory also worked as CEQ General Counsel under the Obama Administration.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – On December 17 news broke that Biden has chosen to nominate Michael Regan for EPA Administrator. Regan’s experience includes leading North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality; work at the Environmental Defense Fund; and at EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.
  • U.S. Department of Energy - Biden is also reported to have chosen former two-term Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Department of Energy. Granholm has earned progressives’ support on climate issues and renewable energy. 

Biden’s presidential transition team advising on EPA issues includes former Obama-era appointees to the agency that helped orchestrate the expansion of federal waters in the 2015 Waters of the United States rule (now repealed) and the “Next Generation” compliance initiative (now withdrawn) that empowered citizen enforcement efforts. Biden’s transition webpage --- https://buildbackbetter.gov/ --- lists all of his transition team members and includes brief statements on various issues the incoming administration intends to address, including climate. 

For more information, contact Melinda Tomaino at melinda.tomaino@agc.org.

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