Biden announces executive actions on resilient infrastructure, offshore wind

Dive Brief:

  • President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday a series of executive orders to adapt to climate change and boost offshore wind energy production. The announcement comes as bolder efforts to address the climate crisis appear ready to die in Congress, and the country stares down a massive heat wave likely to hit 200 million people this week and strain the power grid. 
  • Biden’s orders include a historic $2.3 billion in funding for a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that helps communities deal with heat waves, floods and other extreme weather. The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program will get a $200 million boost this year from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • The other two orders aim to lower cooling costs for communities dealing with extreme heat, and advance wind energy development off the mid- and southern Atlantic Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Dive Insight:

Biden called climate change a “clear and present danger” in Wednesday’s press conference. However, he stopped short of formally declaring a climate emergency — which would enable the use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up renewable energy systems — as many Democratic leaders and activists have urged. Democrats have been trying to pass a sweeping bill with climate funding, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), a key vote, has indicated he won’t support it.

Instead, the White House is doubling funding for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program to build cooling centers and more, and is broadening the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program to give states more options for how to spend the federal funds to help keep low-income people cool. This year LIHEAP received a record $8 billion, with an additional $100 million from the IIJA.

“Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world,” Biden said in the press conference. “This is an emergency, an emergency, and I will look at it that way.”

Construction workers are at disproportionate risk of heat illness on the job, a problem that looks set to worsen as temperatures continue to climb. To address the issue, OSHA is developing a heat standard and is ramping up heat-related inspections in high-risk industries, including construction.

The president will announce additional climate change related executive actions in the coming weeks, according to the White House release.

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