Biden administration calls for review of environment policies

By Laura Bies

The Biden administration has frozen some energy and environmental actions from the last four years, as it begins a sweeping review of all such actions. Credit: Diego Cambioso

On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order calling for his administration to review actions and policies implemented by the former administration related to the environment and energy.

In the order, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” Biden calls on the federal government to “empower our workers and communities; promote and protect our public health and the environment; and conserve our national treasures and monuments, places that secure our national memory,” through the use of the best available science and in a way that preserves the integrity of federal decision-making.

He calls on agency heads to “immediately review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (agency actions) promulgated, issued, or adopted between Jan. 20, 2017, and Jan. 20, 2021, that are or may be inconsistent with, or present obstacles to, the policy” set forth in the order.

The executive order also calls for a temporary moratorium on federal activities related to oil and gas development on the coastal plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Recent actions to be reviewed under the executive order include the recent rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act regulations and the new Endangered Species Act implementation rules, as well as the specific rules related to critical habitat, consultation, gray wolf delisting  and the northern spotted owl critical habitat designation, among many others.

President Biden also issued orders revoking the previous administration’s order targeting diversity, equity and inclusion training programs for federal employees and another creating a “Schedule F” category for federal employees, which would have made it easier to fire those employees.

The administration has also continued to fill open positions. Eric Lander, a geneticist who played a key role in the Human Genome Project, was nominated to serve as the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, a position that will be elevated to Cabinet-rank. Lander will also serve as the director of the White House of Office of Science and Technology. His nomination requires Senate confirmation.

Several members of the Department of the Interior’s leadership team have been announced, including Elizabeth Kline, who also served at Interior during the Obama and Clinton administrations, nominated for Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and Martha Williams, who will serve as the Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Williams, the former director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, will act as the USFWS director until that position, which requires presidential nomination and Senate confirmation, is filled. A nominee for USFWS Director has not yet been announced.

Link to Wednesday’s story

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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