As 2022 comes to a close, we are looking forward to taking a breath and spending some time with loved ones, but also turning our attention to 2023. As we try to anticipate where the action will be in Washington, D.C. in the new year, three different areas jump out: 1) Biden Administrative climate action to achieve the emissions reductions that science demands, 2) Creating strong, pro-environment courts and agencies, and 3) Protecting environmental investments and initiatives from new attacks.
The Biden Administration “Going Big” on Health and Climate
The Inflation Reduction Act and other critical actions by the Biden Administration and Congress have created a pathway for a just transition to a clean energy economy, but so far it’s not enough to make sure the U.S. does its part to avoid a “runaway” global climate. The good news is that effective implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, combined with new safeguards in the form of Biden Administration rules and regulations, could add up to the reductions that the scientific community has broadly agreed are necessary.
President Biden speaks during Tuesday’s Inflation Reduction Act celebration at the White House (Photo Credit: @POTUS via Twitter).
In 2023, the Biden administration needs to go big on climate and public health by advancing approximately 20 key protections across federal agencies. Between the IRA and continued aggressive action, we will continue to change the politics of climate by helping voters and elected officials see the benefits of investing in real climate solutions.
Strengthening Federal Courts and Agencies
With Republicans taking control of the House, and Senate Democrats expanding their numbers in the Senate by one vote to make a 51-49 majority (DSCC Chair Senator Gary Peters getting a lot of credit for that), action in the Senate to advance confirmations for federal judges and agency appointees will become all the more important. Biden and the Democratic Senate advanced judicial confirmations at a record pace in the first two years, but the pace of confirmations in the next two years will depend on a variety of factors. A big open question: will there be any Supreme Court openings?
David Uhlmann testifying during a confirmation hearing in 2021 (Credit: E&E News).
Likewise, there are still a number of top positions at federal agencies that are still open – in many cases President Biden has appointed a nominee and the Senate simply needs to move those nominees across the finish line. One prominent example is a Michigander – former DOJ environmental crimes prosecutor David Uhlmann (currently an environmental law professor at University of Michigan), who was nominated by President Biden to fill a critical role as the head of EPA’s enforcement and compliance office, and is still awaiting confirmation in the Senate. Of course budget and appropriations support of federal agencies is super important so that they can be well-staffed and resourced to do their jobs adequately.
Pushing Back on Attacks (especially in the House) on the Environment
Republican control of the House means that we should expect a slate of committee oversight hearings and investigations of Biden Administration policies and actions. Some of these investigations will be aimed at throwing red meat to the MAGA base, and as a result will be extreme and ridiculous, with a lot of myths/misinformation. Environmental priorities will not be spared, so it will be important to push back in different ways (from organizing to communications) and make sure that lawmakers are well-informed on the facts.
Senator Joe Manchin is still pushing for a vote on his Big Oil side deal.
There is already a great fight-back effort going on right now in Congress – as we’ve reported on previous editions, we’ve kept Senator Manchin’s bill (that would undermine environmental review) from moving forward. But he is still pushing for a vote – and will get a vote this week in the form of an amendment to a larger bill. There’s a chance for you to make your voice heard with Senators Stabenow and Peters by sending a message through our action alert link. And even if we defeat this latest attempt, these proposals will be back next year – highlighting the importance for champions of the environment and clean energy to work together to advance principles that can accelerate renewable projects while preserving community input and analysis of project impacts on air, land, water, and public health.