U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) speaks to reporters

U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) speaks to reporters on June 13, 2023.

(Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

As Climate Crisis Intensifies, GOP Wants to Prohibit Biden From Declaring Emergency

Leading the effort is Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, an ally of the fossil fuel industry and recipient of Big Oil campaign cash.

Senate Republicans introduced legislation earlier this week that would prohibit President Joe Biden from declaring a national climate emergency as millions across the U.S. shelter indoors to escape scorching heat and toxic pollution from Canadian wildfires, which have been fueled by runaway warming.

Led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)—a fossil fuel industry ally and the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee—the GOP bill would "prohibit the president from using the three primary statutory authorities available (the National Emergencies Act, the Stafford Act, and section 319 of the Public Health Service Act) to declare a national emergency solely on the basis of climate change," according to a summary released by the Republican senator's office.

Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), another friend of the oil and gas industry, is leading companion legislation in the House.

The updated version of the bill, first introduced last year, comes as Biden is facing mounting pressure from environmental groups to use all of the power at his disposal to fight the climate crisis as it intensifies extreme weather across the U.S. and around the world.

A climate emergency declaration would unlock sweeping executive powers that would allow the president to halt crude oil exports, block oil and gas drilling, expand renewable energy systems, and more.

"What will it take for Biden and the Dems to stop supporting the profits of fossil fuel executives and finally declare a climate emergency? How bad will all this need to get?"

While Biden reportedly considered declaring a climate emergency amid a devastating heatwave last year, he ultimately decided against it to the dismay of environmentalists.

But the impacts of Canada's record-shattering wildfires, which are likely to get worse in the coming weeks, have sparked another round of calls for Biden to follow in the footsteps of jurisdictions in more than 40 countries and declare climate change a national emergency.

"What will it take for Biden and the Dems to stop supporting the profits of fossil fuel executives and finally declare a climate emergency? How bad will all this need to get?" asked climate scientist Peter Kalmus. "These days ticking by are absolutely critical."

Pointing to the horrendous air quality that major U.S. cities are experiencing due to Canada's wildfires, the youth-led Sunrise Movement sent a simple message to Biden on Thursday: "Declare a climate emergency."

Capito's legislation is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the narrowly Democratic U.S. Senate, but her attempt to bar the president from declaring a climate emergency has previously gained bipartisan support.

Last May, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Kelley (D-Ariz.) joined Republicans in approving a nonbinding motion stating that the president "cannot use climate change as a basis for declaring an 'emergency' or 'national disaster.'"

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