3 trends to watch in U.S. climate policy in 2023


Hello and welcome to The Climate 202! Good year. 🎉

Although individual actions alone will not solve the climate crisis, they can certainly help. So today, we’re sharing our climate-related New Year’s resolution: cold wash our clothes more often. By washing four out of five loads of laundry in cold water, you can save 864 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year, our colleague Allyson Chiu reported.

What are you doing to go green this year? Send a note to maxine.joselow@washpost.com or vanessa.montalbano@washpost.com. But first :

2023 is a crucial year for US climate policy. Here’s what to watch.

2022 has been a banner year for climate policy in America. On Capitol Hill, congressional Democrats passed the largest climate bill in U.S. history, while in state capitals across the country, lawmakers pushed to fast-track passage of the clean energy, electric vehicles and other green technologies.

2023 promises to be just as eventful for climate advocates. Here are three major trends we are following:

States could be at the forefront of climate action

The landmark climate law that President Biden signed in August, known as Inflation Reduction Actwas made possible by tight Democratic control of both houses of Congress.

But with the Republican takeover of the House darkening prospects for more ambitious climate legislation at the federal level, the epicenter of U.S. climate action could shift to the states this year.

  • Currently, 15 states and territories have adopted requirements to achieve 100% clean electricity, including Hawaii, California, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • According to a count of Evergreen Actiona climate advocacy group.

More states could adopt or strengthen these standards this year. In the November midterm elections, The Democrats have won a “trifecta” — control of the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature — in four states that should pursue bolder climate policies:

  • In Maryland, Governor-Elect Wes Moore called for 100% of Maryland’s electricity to come from clean sources by 2035, with an interim goal of 80% by 2030.
  • In Massachusetts, Governor-elect Maura Healey wants the state to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2030. She’s also pushed to end the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, and she named the first “climate chief” to the State Cabinet level.
  • In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order requiring the state to become carbon neutral by 2050 during his first term. With the state Senate overthrown for the first time since 1983, she could now also pursue major climate policies through legislation.
  • And in Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz passed tougher vehicle emissions standards, but the Republican-controlled state Senate thwarted its goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. Now under Democratic control, the state legislature should start looking at a clean electricity bill as early as this month.

“States will take center stage this year in the fight against climate change,” said Casey Katimsgeneral manager of the American Climate Alliancea bipartisan coalition of governors committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

“Governors take office and enter second terms with new energy, new resources and increased momentum to act boldly on climate – especially where legislative support is strengthened,” he said.

Climate law could challenge agencies

Back in Washington, 2023 will also be a big year for federal agencies to implement key provisions of the landmark climate law.

the Treasury Department last week released long-awaited advice on how Americans can claim generous tax credits to switch from fossil fuel heaters, stoves and cars to cleaner versions, our colleague Shannon Osaka reported.

But other agencies are just getting started. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency is working to create a $27 billion national green bank that provides low-cost financing for clean energy projects.

During this time, the Department of Energyit is Loan Programs Office prepares to issue billions of dollars in new loans. House Republicans said they plan to step up surveillance of the office, noting that the solar panel maker Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after receiving $535 million in federal loans.

Jigar Shahwho heads the loan programs office, wrote on Twitter that “2023 is going to be the hardest year of my life”:

EPA could rush to finalize rules

The Climate Act will put the United States on a path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 from 2005 levels, according to several independent modellers. Yet Biden has pledged to cut emissions by at least 50% over the next decade.

To make up the difference, his administration must take ambitious executive action, campaigners say. In particular, advocates called on the EPA to meet its self-imposed March deadline to propose new greenhouse gas rules for power plants, which are the nation’s second largest contributor. to global warming.

“We need the administration to focus on environmental rules, and in particular the Clean Air Act standards for carbon pollution from new and existing power plants,” he said. Sam Rickettsco-founder and senior advisor at Evergreen Action.

“If they don’t,” he said, “these rules won’t be enforced in President Biden’s first term, as they should be.”

House Democrats won’t send documents on big oil companies to Senate

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee will not send a trove of subpoenas from oil and gas companies to the Senate, ending their year-long investigation into the fossil fuel industry’s alleged efforts to mislead the public about climate change .

A spokesperson for Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California), who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on the Environment, confirmed to The Climate 202 that the panel had “no intention of sending documents to the Senate.” The Intercept first reported on the development.

Khanna previously told The Intercept that before Republicans take control of the House, the committee would release the documents to the Senate for further review — a task the panel staff lacked the time or resources to complete. .

A first batch of documents, released last month, showed oil company executives were discounting the potential for renewables to quickly replace fossil fuels, while scrambling to secure a future for natural gas.

House Republicans vote on oil reserves bill

With the 118th Congress due to convene on Tuesday, the new House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) Friday introduced a bill that will go to a vote in the next two weeks, including a bill that would ban the Department of Energy to send oil from the country’s strategic reserve to China.

the Protection of the United States Petroleum Strategic Reserve from China Act was introduced in July by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who is expected to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) introduced a similar bill it would also prevent oil sold from the reserve from being exported to Russia, North Korea and Iran.

Last spring, President Biden ordered the gradual release of 180 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to lower gasoline prices. But critics, including many Republicans, have argued that Biden is abusing the reservation for his own political ends while helping the nation’s adversaries.

In a letter sent Friday to fellow Republicans, Scalise wrote that each of the bills expected to be introduced in the House “will address the challenges facing hard-working families on issues ranging from energy, inflation, border security, life, taxpayer protection, etc,” adding that “they should garner broad support and provide an indication of our bold agenda ahead.”

EPA expands protections for US waterways, unseating Trump

The Biden administration on Friday unveiled a rule that expands the definition of waterways that the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate under the Clean Water Actreversing a Trump-era shift but stopping short of a controversial rule from the president barack obamaThe Washington Post Dance Scott reports.

The new rule increases the number of wetlands, streams and rivers that federal and state governments can protect from pollutants, including livestock waste, construction runoff and industrial effluent. Unlike Obama-era regulations, the rule excludes ephemeral streams and ponds, or those that last for a short time.

Environmentalists hailed the rule, calling it crucial to restoring the health of the nation’s waterways. But Republicans and industry groups have blasted the rule as an example of overregulation that could stall infrastructure projects. Senator Shelley Moore got it (RW.Va.) said in a statement that the rule “will unfairly burden American farmers, ranchers, miners, infrastructure builders and landowners.”

The rule comes ahead of an expected Supreme Court move that could limit the agency’s authority over the country’s waterways in the future.

Thousands of records shattered in historic winter heat wave in Europe

At least seven European countries experienced their hottest January weather on record on New Year’s Day, as an unprecedented heat dome raised temperatures by 18 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 Celsius) above from the normal of France to the west of Russia, Ian Livingstone reports for La Poste.

The extreme winter heat comes after the continent had a historic year for heat. A severe summer drought and intense heat waves helped push the UK to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) for the first time on record in July – providing another example of how climate change is causing intensification and the occurrence of such extraordinary weather events. frequently.

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