Biden plans new funds for localities on climate, but no national emergency yet

As U.S. Senate negotiations on climate finance stall, President Joe Biden on Wednesday directs extra spending to help states and cities deal with climate disasters — resisting calls from many congressional Democrats to take action. more aggressive executive action like a declaration of a national climate emergency.

Biden is also announcing steps executive agencies are taking to expand offshore wind development in the Gulf of Mexico and provide funding for local cooling centers. Dangerous heat waves have become more frequent in recent years. The UK and other parts of Europe are currently experiencing record heat and fires.

Biden’s remarks were expected to come during an appearance at a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Mass., according to an administration official who briefed reporters earlier Wednesday. Massachusetts senses Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey as well as Rep. Jake Auchincloss, all Democrats, are to accompany Biden to the plant, which now manufactures undersea cables used in the wind industry.

The administration’s moves fall far short of what several congressional Democrats and environmental advocates had urged the president to do after talks between conservative-leaning Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and the Democratic leader New York’s Chuck Schumer on a massive climate spending and tax plan appeared to fall apart last week. Manchin’s vote would be needed for so-called reconciliation legislation to progress in the equally divided Senate.

manchin said it could be open to climate legislation later this summer, but only if it sees favorable inflation numbers next month.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon who chairs the subcommittee that spearheads environmental funding, told reporters this week that the apparent deadlock in Senate climate talks had “freed” Biden. pending legislative action. Merkley called on the administration to “pivot to a very aggressive climate strategy.”

Merkley and Democratic Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse voiced several options for executive action, including using the Defense Production Act to spur production of clean energy materials like solar panels, stopping oil and gas project approvals and enacting new Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The administration official said Biden was acting because he recognized that the Democratic-controlled Congress would not pass a climate bill anytime soon. The White House has said more executive actions may take place in the coming weeks.

“If you ask me to forecast the rest of the week, yes, we will continue to take climate action every day because it is an integral part of the goal of this administration,” a senior administration official told reporters. . “This is one of the four crises that the president defined during his inauguration.”

Heat waves, drought

Wednesday’s actions include $2.3 billion for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant program to help communities build resilience to weather-related events such as heat waves, drought, wildfires, forest and floods.

The figure is the largest allocation in the program’s history, the administration official said.

The President further asks the Department of the Interior to propose areas for offshore wind energy development in the South Atlantic Ocean and off the Gulf Coast of Florida.

The US Department of Health and Human Services also released tips Wednesday to help states and local governments respond to heat-related emergencies.

The guidelines allow states and local governments to use funds from the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed during Biden’s first months in office to secure air conditioning units and provide cooling centers for shelter vulnerable people.