WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Wednesday a set of executive actions he is taking on climate change that fall short of the ambitious plans he proposed at the start of his presidency as prospects for his wider climate agenda dwindle in Congress.
“Congress is not acting as it should,” Biden said during remarks at Brayton Point, a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. “This is an emergency, an emergency, and I will look at it that way. I said last week, and I’ll say it again, loud and clear, as President, I’ll use my executive powers to combat climate, the climate crisis, in the absence or congressional action.”
Biden said his administration will direct $2.3 billion in funding for FEMA's resilient infrastructure program in fiscal 2022, broaden the low-income energy assistance program to include cooling centers and energy-efficient air conditioners and direct the Interior Department to propose the first wind energy areas in the Gulf of Mexico.
The White House said the moves are the first of several the White House plans to take after failed efforts in Congress to strike a deal on climate change in the Senate where Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., recently rejected Democrats' plans to include climate provisions in a broader Biden agenda bill.
"I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger and that’s what climate change is about," Biden said. "It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger. The health of our citizens in our communities is literally at stake."
Biden indicated Wednesday that he would be taking additional actions.
Among the actions the White House has been considering is a climate emergency declaration, but no final decision has been made on the step, White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters Wednesday.
“We need to be thoughtful about this and we want to take actions not just declare things," said McCarthy. "I think it was just important for the president to get his arms around the various threads of work that we can put together and lay them out in a way that he is comfortable with."
Biden's remarks also come as more than 140 million Americans are bracing for a blistering heat wave this week that is spreading from central California across the Mississippi River Valley and into the Northeast.
“The President is going to lay out what he can do, what he intends to do," a senior administration official said on call with reporters. "He has very specific executive powers, he has leveraged executive action to date, he has directed his administration to look at a broad set of options for how to accelerate those actions and how to implement those executive powers with the highest ambition, and that’s his focus."