Biden team plans “all of government” approach on climate

Boston Statehouse

President-elect Joe Biden announces his choice for several positions in his administration during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

BOSTON (SHNS) – As Massachusetts continues its shift toward cleaner energy sources, the developing Biden administration, which rolled out its energy and environmental team Saturday, is emerging as a far more receptive federal partner than the Trump administration.

Biden’s goal for the nation syncs up with the one that state government leaders in Massachusetts have their eyes on: achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Jennifer Granholm, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for energy secretary, said upon her introduction Saturday that the United States needs to compete with other countries for “millions of good-paying jobs” that will be created in the clean energy sector.

“Over the next two decades, countries will invest trillions of dollars in electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines, and energy-efficient appliances and buildings. They’ll upgrade their electric grids using smart technology,” Granholm said.

On Sunday morning, Granholm doubled down during an appearance on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” saying, “We need to be the leader rather than passive bystanders, or otherwise we’re going to allow other countries like China and others who are fighting to be able to corner this market.”

With Gov. Charlie Baker pressing for a multi-state compact to cut carbon emissions in the transportation sector, Granholm specified that “transportation is going to be a huge part of this,” referring to Biden’s larger climate change plan.

“Hair on Fire Effort”

A vocal booster of the fossil fuel sector, clean energy was not a frequent talking point for President Donald Trump, and in Massachusetts plans to bolster the state’s renewable energy supply by launching offshore wind farms have so far bottomed out in the federal bureaucracy. By contrast, Granholm on Sunday suggested the new administration will push for both land-based and offshore wind energy, as well as new solar power installations.

“There is going to have to be a significant sort of hair-on-fire effort inside the administration to get it in the ground to meet that goal,” she said.

When he takes office in about a month, Biden plans to quickly sign executive orders with “unprecedented reach,” according to his plan, and will call on Congress to pass legislation in 2021 establishing an enforcement mechanism with milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025. The Delaware Democrat also wants substantial federal investments in clean energy and climate research and innovation, and incentives to deploy clean energy innovations, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.

The former governor of Michigan, Granholm said her commitment to clean energy was “forged in the fire,” recalling how the auto industry was on “the brink of collapse” during the Great Recession before federal assistance was allocated “to rescue the auto industry, save a million jobs, retool and electrify Detroit for the future, and diversify Michigan’s economy on the strength of a new sector: clean energy.”

During her brief remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on Saturday, Secretary of Interior nominee Deb Haaland twice mentioned climate change, the impetus for the drive to embrace clean energy technologies and reduce carbon emissions. If confirmed, she will oversee a department that includes the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that will shape the extent to which the offshore wind sector will sprout in the waters off New England and the mid-Atlantic states.

“As our country faces the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice, the Interior Department has a role to address these challenges,” Haaland said. “The president-elect’s goals are driven by justice and empowering communities who have shouldered the burdens of environmental negligence. And we will ensure that the decisions at Interior will once again be driven by science. We know that climate change can only be solved with participation of every department and of every community coming together in common purpose — this country can and will tackle this challenge.”

McCarthy Offers Local Tie

In addition to Biden’s selection of John Kerry to serve as climate envoy, Gina McCarthy is another top pick with local ties. McCarthy, who served in state environmental affairs posts here before rising to EPA administrator under President Obama, has been tapped to lead a newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy and drive what Biden’s team is describing as an “all of government” approach to combating climate change.

Born and raised in Boston, McCarthy graduated from UMass Boston and earned a master’s degree at Tufts University. On Saturday, she recalled that for her family a beach day “was a swim in Boston Harbor.” She mentioned needing to clean oil “and other things stuck to our skin” after swimming as a formative experience, as well as closing classroom windows to seal off “the chemical stench from the nearby rubber factory.”

“That smell kept us from outside recess on more days than I cared to remember,” said McCarthy. “So I figured out early on that there was a connection between our environment and our health.”

Michael Regan, Biden’s nominee for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, flagged the goal of ensuring that the EPA “is once again a strong partner for the states — not a roadblock.”

“We will be driven by our conviction that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthier life no matter how much money they have in their pocket, the color of their skin, or what community they live in,” Regan said. “We will move with urgency on climate change, protecting our drinking water, and enacting an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities.”

Regan described growing up hunting and fishing in eastern North Carolina with his father and grandfather, and experiencing respiratory issues that required him to use an inhaler when pollutants and allergens were bad. He said his curiosity about connections between the environment and health drove him to pursue a job at the EPA after completing his education in environmental science.

“We will move with urgency on climate change, protecting our drinking water, and enacting an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities,” Regan said.

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