Standing at the site of a former coal-fired power plant in Brayton Point, Massachusetts that is being repurposed as a cable manufacturing facility to support the flourishing offshore wind industry, President Biden reiterated his long-held position that climate change is a clear and present danger to the United States. Since Congress is not acting on this emergency, President Biden is. In the coming weeks, President Biden will announce additional executive actions to combat this emergency.
Biden announced his latest set of executive actions to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, by creating good-paying jobs in clean energy and lowering costs for families. His actions will protect communities from climate impacts already here, including extreme heat conditions impacting more than 100 million Americans this week, and expand offshore wind opportunities and jobs in the United States.
The transformation of the coal-fired power plant to instead manufacture cable to transmit energy generated by offshore wind is representative of how the President’s leadership is accelerating the nation’s transition away from the pollution, environmental injustice, and volatile price swings of the past toward the good-paying jobs and energy security of the future.
President Biden’s new executive actions will:
- Protect Communities from Extreme Heat and Dangerous Climate Impacts: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is announcing $2.3 billion in funding for its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program for Fiscal Year 2022— the largest BRIC investment in history, boosted by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This funding will help communities increase resilience to heat waves, drought, wildfires, flood, hurricanes, and other hazards by preparing before disaster strikes. BRIC is among hundreds of federal programs that the Biden-Harris Administration is transforming to support the Justice40 Initiative and prioritize delivering benefits to disadvantaged communities.
- Lower Cooling Costs for Communities Suffering from Extreme Heat: Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is issuing guidance that for the first time expands how the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can promote the delivery of efficient air conditioning equipment, community cooling centers, and more. In April, the Biden-Harris Administration released $385 million through LIHEAP to help families with their household energy costs, including summer cooling—part of a record $8 billion that the Administration has provided, boosted by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- Expand Offshore Wind Opportunities and Jobs: The Department of the Interior is proposing the first Wind Energy Areas in the Gulf of Mexico, a historic step toward expanding offshore wind opportunities to another region of the United States. These areas cover 700,000 acres and have the potential to power over three million homes. President Biden is also directing the Secretary of the Interior to advance wind energy development in the waters off the mid- and southern Atlantic Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast —alleviating uncertainty cast by the prior Administration. These actions follow the President’s launch of a new Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership that brought together Governors to deliver more clean, affordable energy and new jobs.
Millions of Americans feel the effects of climate change each year when their roads wash out, power goes down, homes are destroyed by wildfires, or schools get flooded. Last year alone, the United States faced 20 extreme weather and climate related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each – a cumulative price tag of more than $145 billion. People of color and underserved communities are disproportionately vulnerable to the climate crisis and are more likely to experience the negative health and environmental effects of climate-related and extreme weather events. Further, the country’s critical infrastructure is at risk from climate and extreme weather.
President Biden will not back down from addressing this emergency. Since taking office, he has mobilized his entire Administration to tackle the climate crisis and secured historic clean energy and climate resilience investments in his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. He will continue taking bold action to secure a safe, healthy, clean energy future—all while saving families money, delivering clean air and water, advancing environmental justice, and boosting American manufacturing and competitiveness.
PROTECTING COMMUNITIES FROM EXTREME HEAT
This summer, millions of Americans are navigating the challenges and dangers that come with extreme heat advisories and record-breaking temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The climate crisis is making heat waves more intense and frequent, taking a toll on health across the country—sending tens of thousands of Americans to the emergency room, increasing risks of heart and respiratory problems, and especially endangering our workers, children, seniors, historically underserved and overburdened communities, and people with underlying health conditions.
To respond, last year the Biden-Harris Administration launched a broad set of new initiatives to advance workplace safety, build local resilience, and address the disproportionate impacts of extreme heat. Today, the Administration is announcing additional steps and progress on:
- Providing Record Funding to Increase Community Resilience: Last year, President Biden doubled the funding available through FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. This year, he is doubling it again, to a historic level of $2.3 billion available for states, local communities, Tribes, and territories to proactively reduce their vulnerability to heat waves, drought, wildfires, flood, hurricanes, and other hazards boosted by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As part of the President’s Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal of delivering 40% of the overall benefits of Federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities, FEMA is prioritizing communities that have long been marginalized, overburdened, and underserved.
- Expanding Access to Home Air Conditioners and Community Cooling Centers: In April, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released $385 million through LIHEAP to help families with their household energy costs, including summer cooling—part of a record $8 billion that the Administration has provided, boosted by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to reduce cooling and heating costs for low-income Americans. Today, HHS is issuing guidance that will help states, Tribes, and territories expand how they respond to extreme heat and support vulnerable communities through LIHEAP. The guidance provides for a range of flexible options including increasing funding for cooling assistance through the American Rescue Plan; establishing community cooling centers; and purchasing, distributing, or loaning efficient air conditioning equipment, evaporative coolers and electric heat pumps—a more energy-efficient alternative for providing cooling services—to vulnerable households and individuals. HHS has also developed a LIHEAP and Extreme Heat website to provide online resources including the Heat Stress Geographic Information (GIS) Dashboard to help grant recipients and stakeholders track, visualize, and respond to heat stress trends and needs across the country.
- Enforcing Workplace Safety: Heat is a growing threat to workplace safety, especially in high-risk sectors like agriculture and construction. In April, Vice President Harris and Secretary of Labor Walsh launched the first-ever National Emphasis Program to protect millions of workers from heat illness and injuries. Since then, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has already conducted 564 heat-related inspections, which are focused on over 70 high-risk industries across 43 states. On days when the heat index is 80°F or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists are engaging in proactive outreach and technical assistance to help stakeholders keep workers safe on the job.
Through the Extreme Heat Interagency Working Group under the National Climate Task Force, the Administration is advancing a wide range of additional efforts, including a historic OSHA rulemaking process toward the first federal heat standard to protect workers, EPA support for community communication strategies to help people keep safe on the hottest days, a DHS Cooling Solutions Challenge to fund innovative extreme heat responses, NOAA’s community-led urban heat island mapping campaign, a USDA urban and community forestry program to equitably improve heat resilience, and a new HHS Climate and Health Outlook to inform health professionals about extreme heat and other climate-related health hazards.
BOOSTING THE OFFSHORE WIND INDUSTRY AND CREATING JOBS
Since President Biden set a bold goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, the Administration has approved the first large-scale projects and new wind energy areas, held record-breaking wind auctions, and issued an action plan to accelerate permitting. The private sector is following suit with investments to expand an American-made wind energy supply chain. In 2021 alone, investors announced $2.2 billion in new supply chain funding, including commitments to develop nine major manufacturing facilities to produce the foundations, towers, cables, and blades of offshore wind turbines. Historic project labor agreements are helping to grow a diverse union workforce, create good-paying jobs, and support training programs.
To further expand these opportunities, today President Biden is:
- Kickstarting Potential for Offshore Wind in Gulf of Mexico: Today, the Department of the Interior is announcing draft Wind Energy Areas and an accompanying draft Environmental Assessment to consider potential offshore wind power in the Gulf of Mexico. The Administration will seek public input on two potential Wind Energy Areas—one off the coast of Galveston, Texas and another off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The area for review covers over 700,000 acres, with the potential to power over three million homes with clean energy. As with prior proposals, the Administration is committed to working in partnership with stakeholders to advance offshore wind development while protecting biodiversity and promoting ocean co-use.
- Promoting Offshore Wind Opportunities in the Southeast: The prior Administration cast uncertainty over the future of offshore wind and other clean energy development off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Today, President Biden is directing the Secretary of the Interior to advance clean energy development in these federal waters—ensuring that these southeast states will be able to benefit from good-paying jobs in the burgeoning offshore wind industry.
These actions follow the President’s announcement last month of a new Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership, joining with Governors to ensure that federal and state officials are working together to build a U.S.-based supply chain, including manufacturing and shipbuilding, for the rapidly-growing offshore wind industry.