President Biden is preparing to declare a climate emergency, say lawmakers who have spoken to the president and are urging him to take executive action now that Congress’ negotiations for climate change legislation have fallen apart.
Democratic lawmakers expect Mr. Biden to announce a climate emergency as early as this week. White House officials, however, were coy about whether Mr. Biden would do it Wednesday when he visits the shuttered Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, to talk about climate change.
“I don’t know the exact words the president is going to use but I think that Joe Biden is poised to use his commander in chief authority to invoke a domestic mobilization against the climate crisis,” said Sen. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat.
A White House official refused to say if Mr. Biden would make the declaration in Massachusetts, telling The Washington Times that they didn’t want to get ahead of the president’s remarks.
Senate Democrats are urging Mr. Biden to act unilaterally now that Sen. Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat and powerful moderate, has dropped his support for new clean energy tax breaks in a party-line spending bill, killing any chance of legislative action on a climate bill.
The Massachusetts power plant, formerly one of the largest electricity producers in New England, is undergoing a conversion from coal to wind power and will serve as a backdrop for Mr. Biden’s call for more renewables in the power grid.
“The president will deliver remarks on tackling the climate crisis and seizing the opportunity of a clean energy future to create jobs and lower costs for families,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday.
A climate emergency declaration would give Mr. Biden the authority to take significant steps to combat emissions, which Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, said is essential to combat climate change damage “before these consequences pile up in a way that is out of control.”
Although Mr. Biden has declared climate change an “emergency,” he has not made an official declaration under the National Emergencies Act.
Republicans on Capitol Hill scoffed at the plan and questioned whether Mr. Biden has the legal authority to make such a declaration.
“I don’t believe he has the power to declare a climate emergency,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican. “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a climate emergency. There are weather emergencies, we know what those are. There’s not a climate emergency.”
Democrats say the climate is such a dire threat that the nation cannot wait for Congress to pass a bill.
“This isn’t something you can go back and fix with the bill and 2030,” Mr. Whitehouse said.
Mr. Whitehouse and fellow Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon told reporters this week that the president should invoke the emergency authority under the Defense Production Act to ramp up a massive production of solar panels. Mr. Whitehouse said at least 40 new production plants would be needed to produce the number of solar panels needed to sufficiently cut carbon emissions.
It’s a plan that would employ thousands of workers, Mr. Whitehouse said, akin to the World War II production of military aircraft and other equipment that helped the United States defeat Hitler.
“Rosie the solar riveter,” Mr. Whitehouse quipped, referring to the women who helped build World War II machinery.
Mr. Whitehouse also wants the president to announce new carbon regulations for autos, trucks and industrial plants as well as implement a carbon border tariff, which would tax imports based on the amount of carbon emissions produced in making the product.
Democrats also want Mr. Biden to pursue litigation against oil companies, akin to the government’s historic lawsuit against Big Tobacco.
“That seems to me to be a pretty good model for investigating whether such a case could be brought against the decades of misrepresentation by the fossil fuel industry, and its armada of phony front groups,” Mr. Whitehouse said.