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President Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden participates in a news conference on July 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Leaving Parts of Trump's Pro-Polluter Legacy Intact, Biden Gets C- on Environmental Report Card

Biden's "limited achievements must be put in context of what both science and justice require to avoid the worst impacts of the climate and extinction crises," said the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund.

Julia Conley

Expressing alarm over President Joe Biden's support for a number of pipeline projects and his failure to reverse the vast majority of environmental regulatory rollbacks introduced by his predecessor, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund on Tuesday gave the president a grade of C-minus and said he "needs improvement" on its Environmental Report Card.

Six months into his presidency, Biden has fully met five out of 25 "concrete and achievable environmental promises" he made on the campaign trail, and has only reversed three of former President Donald Trump's rollbacks.

"Biden's bold vision during the campaign won't be met if his administration leaves large chunks of Trump’s pro-polluter legacy intact."
—Brett Hartl, CBD Action Fund

 
CBD Action Fund noted in the report card (pdf) that the president signed an "unprecedented" 17 executive orders on his first day in office in January, including three that fulfilled "Day One" promises he had made: "formally beginning the reentry process to the Paris climate agreement, permanently rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline, and directing all federal agencies to elevate addressing environmental justice to protect frontline communities."
 
The group emphasized, however, that during Biden's first six months in office the U.S. has experienced "an unprecedented drought" and "record-shattering heatwaves" which climate scientists have long warned about.
 
"Thus, even as his administration is evaluated at the six-month mark, its limited achievements must be put in context of what both science and justice require to avoid the worst impacts of the climate and extinction crises," the report card reads.
 
 
"President Biden got off to a strong start right when he took office, but his environmental agenda appears to be stalling out," said Brett Hartl, chief political strategist at the CBD Action Fund. "He has to light a fire under his Cabinet and the federal agencies to complete his campaign promises without foot-dragging, because the climate and extinction crises are getting more urgent every day."
 
Overall, the group credited Biden with fulfilling five campaign promises so far, including holding a global climate summit in his first 100 days in office and reinstating federal flood-protection standards that assess climate change risks.
 
The administration has taken steps to fulfill 13 other campaign pledges, including:
  • Ending financing for overseas coal projects;
  • Installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations; and
  • Requiring that disadvantaged communities receive 40% of benefits from climate spending.
"For other campaign promises, the Biden administration has yet to initiate efforts to achieve them," the report card says. "For example, Biden spoke numerous times during the campaign about addressing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. He proposed a $20 billion conservation fund to address deforestation. However, this initiative was not part of his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, and it is unclear what other steps the administration will take to address deforestation."
 
CBD Action Fund identified just three Trump-era environmental rollbacks that Biden has reversed, including the so-called "secret science" rule restricting data the EPA can use to enact regulations; eliminating the use of the "social cost of carbon" in environmental reviews; and curtailing categories of industrial polluters subjected to greenhouse gas regulations. 
 
Biden was also credited with taking steps to restore protections to the Tongass National Forest and the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, and with announcing recently that officials will "begin the process of undoing additional Trump-era rollbacks," the report reads. 
 
"The timeline and scope of these efforts is unclear," said the CBD Action Fund. "For example, the Department of the Interior announced in June that it would 'revisit' the Trump-era rollback of the regulations guiding consultations under the Endangered Species Act."
 
"But the department signaled that it would only reverse one of over 20 changes made by the previous administration to the regulations—specifically restoring the earlier definition of 'indirect effects'—and stated that this effort would not even begin until December 2021 at the earliest," the group continued.
 
In addition to more than two dozen Trump-era rollbacks the administration has taken no action to reverse, the group expressed indignation at Biden's decision to support some of Trump's attacks on the environment.
 
The president has declined to block the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota or shut down operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as approving nearly 2,500 new drilling permits on public lands and waters—"roughly the same amount that the Trump administration approved during its first entire year in office," the report card reads. 
 
"Biden's bold vision during the campaign won't be met if his administration leaves large chunks of Trump's pro-polluter legacy intact," said Hartl.
 
Biden has also supported Trump's weakened protections from pesticides for endangered species, an increased limit for Atrazine pollution in waterways, and the expanded use of antibiotics on citrus crops.
 
"If President Biden does not act boldly, right now, the impacts of climate change will be severe enough to make large swaths of our planet nearly uninhabitable," CBD Action Fund said. 
 
After a promising start, the group added, "complacency and inertia could stymy further progress on his climate and environmental goals. Without a continued and sustained effort in the next 12 to 18 months, any potential environmental legacy could easily be erased."

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