Enforcement and Inspection

Growing Support for Biden to Declare Climate Emergency

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), representing 7,500 of the EPA’s 14,300 employees, “signaling its dissatisfaction with the White House’s level of action on climate,” will ask the Biden administration to declare a climate emergency, reports Bloomberg Law.

“The request represents a marker for the [AFGE] Council 238 when it sits down with the Environmental Protection Agency on June 13 to negotiate a new contract,” Bloomberg Law adds.

The AFGE Chicago-based Local 704 first sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan in November 2021, stating that “Biden should declare ‘a climate emergency and take major unprecedented actions’ against carbon and other greenhouse gases which cause global warming. Besides bans, Biden should ‘commit to a carbon-free [electric] power system by 2035,’” says People’s World.

“We’re facing a climate emergency … Further inaction on climate could spell the end of a habitable world for millions,” the Local 704 tweeted, according to People’s World. “@POTUS & @EPA should enact policies that provide recovery to communities hardest hit by the #ClimateEmergency.”

Emergency powers

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also called upon Biden to declare a climate emergency back in January 2021 during an interview on the MSNBC Rachel Maddow show and pointed out the many executive powers available to the president once an emergency is declared.

President Donald Trump utilized these powers to access the billions of dollars necessary to build the Mexico border wall when Congress refused the funding, says The New York Times.

When a president declares a national emergency, 123 statutory powers become available for the president’s use, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. To do so, the president must formally declare an emergency and “specify what statutory authority [will be] activated by the declaration,” EveryCRSReport says. The type of statutory authority activated determines which powers the president can evoke. Historically, Title 10, Section 2808 has been utilized by past presidents on three separate occasions. Section 2808 is notable because it gives the president access to billions of dollars set aside for military construction funding.

There are limits and restraints of emergency powers. For example, it does not set aside constitutional law, and those powers can be challenged and restrained by public opinion and both the legislative and the judicial branch.

Additional groups calling for a climate emergency

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced H.R. 794 in February 2021 asking for this declaration. The bill gained 53 Democratic co-sponsors but has remained in the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change.

In March 2022, the Progressive Caucus also called upon Biden to declare “ a National Climate Emergency and invoke authorities under the Defense Production Act and Trade Expansion Act, mobilizing domestic industry to manufacture affordable renewable energy technologies with good paying union jobs for domestic use and international export; reinstate the crude oil export ban; and build reliable, distributed renewable energy systems in frontline communities most affected by the dirty and unjust energy complex.”

Many of these groups, including the AFGE, want the “White House to reinstate a crude oil export ban under the National Emergencies Act and Defense Production Act; enact a clean energy standard to decarbonize the power sector by 2035; and impose a moratorium on permitting fossil fuel facilities and infrastructure,” continues Bloomberg Law.

The Progressive Caucus also suggests the following:

  • “Declare a ban on new fossil fuel leases on federal lands and waters and in environmental justice communities.”
  • “Save taxpayers billions of dollars by ending both domestic and international federal fossil fuel subsidies.”
  • “Direct the State Department, U.S. Treasury, U.S. Export-Import Bank, the U.S. Development Finance Corporation, and USAID to phase out all U.S. government financing for fossil fuel projects and related infrastructure overseas and finance only clean energy infrastructure and climate mitigation and adaptation measures. Use the U.S.’ voice and vote at IMF, World Bank and IDB to advance the same goal.”

According to Bloomberg Law, union contract negotiations with the EPA will also include requests for loan guarantees for renewable energy development, carbon emissions reductions at federal agencies, and the decarbonization of federal financial outlays, including the Thrift Savings Plan that provides retirement savings for federal employees.