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Biden Experiences Difficulties With Climate Skeptics
Joe Biden

Biden Experiences Difficulties With Climate Skeptics


President Joe Biden's relationship with climate activists is beginning to resemble a rollercoaster ride, complete with highs and lows, twists and turns, and the occasional full stomach drop.

On Friday, a few dozen activists from the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate group, descended on the White House to demand that Biden stand firm and keep climate provisions in his infrastructure plan.

“We believed him when he said climate change was the existential threat of our time; we believed him when he said his jobs plan would be a once-in-a-generation investment in America,” Deirdre Shelly, campaign director at Sunrise, told Stardia at the event.

Biden's relationship with the climate community has previously been strained.

Reuters reported in May 2019 that the then-presidential candidate was considering a “middle ground” climate policy that would “appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump,” but would “likely face heavy opposition from green activists.”

Progressive supporters of the Green New Deal dubbed Biden "Middle Ground Joe," a derogatory spin on his signature nickname "Middle Class Joe."

Biden dismissed the criticism, defending both his climate record in the Senate and his plan for dealing with climate change as president. “There is no middle ground about my plan,” he said during a Democratic debate in August 2019.

Many of the same groups that chastised Biden during his campaign have praised him as president, citing his aggressive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy on federal lands, and create millions of green union jobs.

The Sunrise Movement, which CNN dubbed an “early winner in the Biden transition,” declared victory when Biden issued a flurry of early executive orders on climate change, claiming that the moves demonstrated that “President Biden hears our generation’s demands loud and clear, understands the power of our movement, and is serious about using executive power to deliver on his campaign promises,” the group said a week ago.

Sunrise and several other environmental groups, however, have become increasingly dissatisfied in recent weeks, as the administration has thrown its support behind major fossil fuel and mining projects and is considering leaving billions in climate funding out of its landmark infrastructure proposal in order to win over Republicans.

At the protest on Friday, volunteers from the Sunrise Movement urged Biden to keep funding for a Civilian Climate Corps, a New Deal-style program to combat climate change and protect and restore America's public lands, and to sit down with youth organizers rather than negotiate with Republicans who are working to remove climate provisions from the administration's proposal.

In a lengthy study published last month, the International Energy Agency warned that investments in new oil and gas projects must cease immediately if governments are to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a target set by Biden for the United States.

Biden promised during his campaign that he would “move away from the oil industry.”

During one debate, he stated, “The oil industry pollutes significantly, and it must be replaced by renewable energy over time.”

However, less than two weeks after the International Energy Agency report was released, Biden's Justice Department filed a brief in federal court defending the Trump administration's decision last year to approve ConocoPhillips' massive Willow Project in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve.

Conservative lawmakers and the fossil fuel industry praised the Biden administration's stance.

What the White House has done thus far “indicates a lack of consistency across the Biden administration on their overall energy strategy,” according to David Turnbull, a spokesman for Washington-based advocacy group Oil Change USA.

“If the Biden team were to follow the advice of scientists and now the International Energy Agency, they’d rightly view any new fossil fuel projects as impeding their climate objectives,” he wrote in an email. “Until the Biden administration gets serious about a just and managed phase out of fossil fuel production in the United States in line with what’s needed to limit warming to 1.5oC,” he added.

The Willow decision is especially surprising given that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is in charge of managing fossil fuel development within the reserve and across federal lands, spoke out against the project as a member of Congress last year, urging the Trump administration to “suspend any further action” on the project in a May 2020 letter.

The Interior Department said in a statement that the Trump-era approval “complied” with environmental standards in place at the time, and that plaintiffs in the Willow case “did not challenge the Record of Decision within the time limitations associated with environmental review for projects” in the Alaska reserve.

Conservationists have been unsatisfied with this explanation.

Defending the project is “the exact opposite of the climate package that President Biden put forth during his campaign,” Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner and deputy legal director of Friends of the Earth, told Stardia. Friends of the Earth is one of several organizations that have sued to stop the project, claiming that the Trump administration approved it without considering the climate impacts.

“It is no secret that this project is intended to open the door to further development in the Western Arctic,” Templeton said in an email. “To say we are disappointed is an understatement.”

When contacted about the story, the White House referred Stardia to the Department of Justice, which did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. 

Many of Biden's critics in Congress, including moderate Democrats and Republicans from fossil-fuel-producing states, have praised him for his actions.

“I sense a lot more pragmatism there now,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont. ), who has repeatedly chastised Biden’s energy agenda.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, see Biden's actions as completely inconsistent with his own objectives.

“It just doesn’t make sense for him to do that with one hand and say, ‘We’re going to cut emissions in half by 2030, I’m taking climate change seriously,’” Shelly said.

Supporting Willow, according to Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), “makes it more difficult for [the administration] to project leadership on climate in the global stage.”

According to Jeff Hauser, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Revolving Door Project, while politics may have played a role in Biden's recent energy decisions, he believes they are primarily motivated by Garland's desire to keep as many of the DOJ's previous positions as possible.

“If you had a Department of Justice that was deeply committed to the environment and looking as hard as they could to find reasons to come out in the other direction, I’m quite sure they could have done so,” Hauser said, adding that “the notion that the Trump Interior Department did everything right [on Willow] beggars belief.”

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels..Tommy Beaudreau, the president's choice for deputy interior secretary, has a long list of potential conflicts of interest, including numerous former clients in the coal, oil, gas, and renewable energy industries.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels..Tommy Beaudreau, the president's choice for deputy interior secretary, has a long list of potential conflicts of interest, including numerous former clients in the coal, oil, gas, and renewable energy industries..Beaudreau, an Interior Department official in President Barack Obama's administration, was nominated for the No.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels..Tommy Beaudreau, the president's choice for deputy interior secretary, has a long list of potential conflicts of interest, including numerous former clients in the coal, oil, gas, and renewable energy industries..Beaudreau, an Interior Department official in President Barack Obama's administration, was nominated for the No..Elizabeth Klein was appointed to the No. 2 position after the White House reversed its initial choice.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels..Tommy Beaudreau, the president's choice for deputy interior secretary, has a long list of potential conflicts of interest, including numerous former clients in the coal, oil, gas, and renewable energy industries..Beaudreau, an Interior Department official in President Barack Obama's administration, was nominated for the No..Elizabeth Klein was appointed to the No. 2 position after the White House reversed its initial choice..Intuition

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels..Tommy Beaudreau, the president's choice for deputy interior secretary, has a long list of potential conflicts of interest, including numerous former clients in the coal, oil, gas, and renewable energy industries..Beaudreau, an Interior Department official in President Barack Obama's administration, was nominated for the No..Elizabeth Klein was appointed to the No. 2 position after the White House reversed its initial choice..Intuition.Joe Manchin (D-WV) is a Democratic state senator from West Virginia.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels..Tommy Beaudreau, the president's choice for deputy interior secretary, has a long list of potential conflicts of interest, including numerous former clients in the coal, oil, gas, and renewable energy industries..Beaudreau, an Interior Department official in President Barack Obama's administration, was nominated for the No..Elizabeth Klein was appointed to the No. 2 position after the White House reversed its initial choice..Intuition.Joe Manchin (D-WV) is a Democratic state senator from West Virginia..The letter V.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels..Tommy Beaudreau, the president's choice for deputy interior secretary, has a long list of potential conflicts of interest, including numerous former clients in the coal, oil, gas, and renewable energy industries..Beaudreau, an Interior Department official in President Barack Obama's administration, was nominated for the No..Elizabeth Klein was appointed to the No. 2 position after the White House reversed its initial choice..Intuition.Joe Manchin (D-WV) is a Democratic state senator from West Virginia..The letter V..According to The Washington Post, ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have indicated that they will vote against Klein's nomination because of her previous criticism of the fossil fuel industry.

This isn't the first time Biden's team has let down the environmental community, which has largely supported him..In other court filings, the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has expressed support for the Dakota Access Pipeline; more recently, it has defended a contentious land exchange in Arizona that will allow Resolution Copper Mining LLC to proceed with the development of a massive underground mine beneath a historic Apache cultural site..In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, is moving forward with authorizing oil drilling just outside the boundary of Utah's Dinosaur National Monument, which is rich in paleontological sites.. .Climate activists and government watchdogs have also criticized some of Biden's recent environmental appointees for their ties to fossil fuels..Tommy Beaudreau, the president's choice for deputy interior secretary, has a long list of potential conflicts of interest, including numerous former clients in the coal, oil, gas, and renewable energy industries..Beaudreau, an Interior Department official in President Barack Obama's administration, was nominated for the No..Elizabeth Klein was appointed to the No. 2 position after the White House reversed its initial choice..Intuition.Joe Manchin (D-WV) is a Democratic state senator from West Virginia..The letter V..According to The Washington Post, ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have indicated that they will vote against Klein's nomination because of her previous criticism of the fossil fuel industry.. 

According to a financial disclosure obtained by Stardia from the Revolving Door Project, at least one of Biden's top climate advisers, Philip Giudice, a longtime energy industry executive and consultant, remains invested in fossil fuel companies. The document shows Guidice holds up to $150,000 in stock in Chevron, where he worked early in his career, NextEra Energy, which develops bauxite, and BP.

To be clear, conservationists have found a lot more to applaud than to condemn during Biden's first few months in office. Just this week, the administration suspended Trump-era oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a first step toward fulfilling a campaign pledge of "reversing Trump's attacks" on the remote refuge. It has also paused new oil and gas leases on federal lands.

Nonetheless, climate advocates have made it clear in recent weeks that they expect more from a president who made climate and environmental justice a central campaign issue.

“The path forward is simple: Prioritize communities and listen to the science,” said Turnbull of Oil Change USA, “which means stopping fossil fuel projects like Line 3 and all Arctic drilling, instituting a real climate test to ensure every project is evaluated against our climate goals, and mapping out a just and managed phase out of U.S. fossil fuel development to support communities as we move forward.”

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