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Decisive Measures: Biden's Environmental Agenda Gains Momentum Ahead of Election

WASHINGTON -- With the upcoming election on the horizon, President Joe Biden has embarked on an assertive push to solidify his legacy, unveiling a barrage of regulations spanning environmental policies and various other fronts. Among these initiatives is a groundbreaking mandate aimed at compelling coal-fired power plants to either capture smokestack emissions or cease operations altogether. This regulation, which imposes limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled electric stations, represents the pinnacle of the Democratic president's endeavors to curb planet-warming pollution originating from the power sector, a major contributor to climate change.

The recent flurry of regulatory activity underscores Biden's most ambitious endeavor yet to combat climate change, as evidenced by his pledge to halve carbon emissions driving global warming by 2030. Spearheaded primarily by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but involving collaboration with several federal agencies, these regulations have been swiftly rolled out as the administration races against time to safeguard them from potential reversal by a new Congress or administration.

The Biden administration is in green blitz mode," remarked Lena Moffitt, executive director of the activist group Evergreen Action, highlighting the administration's proactive stance towards environmental conservation.

However, the regulatory offensive extends well beyond environmental concerns. As Election Day draws nearer, Biden's administration has introduced or proposed regulations touching upon a diverse array of issues, ranging from student loan forgiveness and affordable housing to overtime pay and health care. This multi-faceted approach serves as a strategic bid to court voters in anticipation of the upcoming reelection battle against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

In April alone, federal agencies set a record by finalizing 66 significant rules, surpassing any previous month in Biden's presidency, according to findings from George Washington University's Regulatory Studies Center. Of these regulations, more than half are estimated to carry an economic impact exceeding $200 million each, marking a notable departure from past administrations' regulatory output.

Undeterred by potential backlash, Biden has actively promoted these regulations, with efforts ranging from personal appearances, such as his visit to Madison, Wisconsin, to tout student loan relief initiatives, to dispatching Cabinet officials across the nation, particularly to key battleground states, to showcase the administration's accomplishments.

Policies crafted through rulemaking pose a distinct vulnerability to reversal compared to legislative enactments, particularly in the face of a deeply divided Congress. President Biden wasted no time in signaling his intent to reverse the policies of the previous administration, swiftly embarking on a mission to dismantle the Trump legacy from his first day in office. Throughout his tenure, Biden has diligently reinstated protections for endangered species that were dismantled under Trump's tenure. Additionally, he has bolstered fuel efficiency standards, effectively overturning the actions of his predecessor.

In a concerted effort to address various societal issues, Biden's administration has enacted several significant regulations. The Education Department's gainful employment rule, for instance, targets college programs that saddle graduates with disproportionate debt relative to their anticipated earnings. Similarly, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has moved to reinstate a rule aimed at rectifying racial disparities in suburban areas, a measure discarded during the Trump era.

With the looming specter of a potential Trump victory in November, it is widely anticipated that efforts to reverse Biden's regulations would ensue. The Congressional Review Act provides a mechanism for lawmakers to nullify newly implemented rules following their finalization by the executive branch. Although this law was wielded extensively by Congressional Republicans in 2017 to dismantle Obama-era policies, Democrats retaliated four years later, rescinding several Trump administration regulations.

The timeline for Congressional action under the Congressional Review Act is contingent upon legislative session durations, adding a degree of unpredictability to the process. While Biden's administration remains confident in the resilience of its regulatory agenda in the current Congress, Republican opposition and legal challenges could precipitate a series of contentious votes in the coming months.

Nevertheless, Biden stands poised to veto any repeal attempts that cross his desk before the expiration of his term. Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at Columbia Law School, underscores the relative security of these regulations in the current political landscape, buoyed by Democratic control of the Senate and White House. However, the future outlook remains uncertain, with Gerrard cautioning that a Republican takeover of Congress and the White House could upend the status quo.

Beyond the landmark power plant rule, the EPA has also introduced separate regulations targeting tailpipe emissions from automobiles and methane emissions stemming from oil and gas drilling activities. Concurrently, the Interior Department has imposed restrictions on new oil and gas leases within a federal petroleum reserve in Alaska and imposed stricter financial obligations on oil and gas companies operating on federal lands, coupled with enhanced requirements for the remediation of old or abandoned wells.

Critics from industry groups and Republican circles have vehemently criticized President Biden's recent actions as governmental overreach. Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, denounced the onslaught of new EPA regulations, arguing that they neglect the pressing electric reliability challenges facing the nation and represent a misguided approach, particularly given the pivotal juncture in the country's energy future.

In addition to climate-related initiatives, the EPA has made significant strides in addressing public health concerns, finalizing a long-awaited ban on asbestos, a notorious carcinogen responsible for claiming tens of thousands of American lives annually. Moreover, the agency has imposed stringent restrictions on certain persistent pollutants, colloquially known as "forever chemicals," in drinking water, underscoring its commitment to safeguarding public health.

Furthermore, the EPA has mandated over 200 chemical plants across the nation to curb toxic emissions, with a particular focus on mitigating risks in disadvantaged communities already burdened by industrial pollution.

While President Biden's recent actions have garnered attention, many of these measures were part of his longstanding agenda since assuming office, aimed at reinstating or fortifying over 100 environmental regulations that were weakened or eliminated under the Trump administration.

These regulatory endeavors come on the heels of Democrats' approval of sweeping clean energy legislation two years ago, hailed as a landmark achievement in combating climate change. Democrats argue that the combined impact of this legislation and Biden's executive actions will not only resonate with climate-conscious voters but also bolster his electoral prospects, particularly among the youth demographic that played a pivotal role in his election four years ago.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan emphasized the administration's commitment to addressing environmental injustices and protecting vulnerable communities from pollution, reaffirming their pledge to uphold clean air and water standards nationwide.

However, the road ahead is fraught with challenges, as these regulations are expected to face legal battles from industry interests and Republican-led states. Despite the administration's efforts to fortify these measures legally, the looming presence of the Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, casts a shadow of uncertainty. Recent landmark rulings have curtailed the EPA's regulatory authority, underscoring the uphill battle in navigating the legal landscape surrounding environmental policy.

As legal battles loom, a pivotal case pending before the court threatens to halt the EPA's "good neighbor" plan, a cornerstone of its air pollution mitigation efforts. Despite the myriad challenges facing the agency, EPA Administrator Regan reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to their mission, emphasizing the need to vigorously defend their position in court.

In addition to EPA regulations, rules issued by various agencies are encountering legal scrutiny. Republican-led states have mounted challenges against the administration's revamped Title IX regulations, which afford enhanced protections for LGBTQ+ students and bolster safeguards for victims of sexual assault. Furthermore, legal contests seek to overturn mandates such as background checks for gun show purchasers, creating a contentious legal landscape with implications for both sides.

The specter of potential reversals by Congress or the judiciary casts a pall of uncertainty, hindering both regulatory momentum and industry compliance efforts. Amidst this uncertainty, the durability of legislative measures such as the bipartisan infrastructure law and the landmark climate legislation passed in 2021 provides a glimmer of stability. These laws, complemented by executive branch actions, chart a course towards achieving President Biden's ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to environmental advocates.

Christy Goldfuss, executive director of the Natural Resource Defense Council, rebuffed assertions from industry and Republicans characterizing the power plant rule as part of an "Obama-era war on coal," framing it instead as a necessary step in combating pollution. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a vocal critic of EPA policies, accused the agency of advancing what he labeled as Biden's "Green New Deal" agenda, decrying what he perceives as an overreach by unelected bureaucrats.

As legal battles intensify and political tensions simmer, the regulatory landscape remains fraught with uncertainty, underscoring the complex interplay between governmental authority, industry interests, and environmental imperatives.

As legal battles loom, a pivotal case pending before the court threatens to halt the EPA's "good neighbor" plan, a cornerstone of its air pollution mitigation efforts. Despite the myriad challenges facing the agency, EPA Administrator Regan reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to their mission, emphasizing the need to vigorously defend their position in court.

In addition to EPA regulations, rules issued by various agencies are encountering legal scrutiny. Republican-led states have mounted challenges against the administration's revamped Title IX regulations, which afford enhanced protections for LGBTQ+ students and bolster safeguards for victims of sexual assault. Furthermore, legal contests seek to overturn mandates such as background checks for gun show purchasers, creating a contentious legal landscape with implications for both sides.

The specter of potential reversals by Congress or the judiciary casts a pall of uncertainty, hindering both regulatory momentum and industry compliance efforts. Amidst this uncertainty, the durability of legislative measures such as the bipartisan infrastructure law and the landmark climate legislation passed in 2021 provides a glimmer of stability. These laws, complemented by executive branch actions, chart a course towards achieving President Biden's ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to environmental advocates.

Christy Goldfuss, executive director of the Natural Resource Defense Council, rebuffed assertions from industry and Republicans characterizing the power plant rule as part of an "Obama-era war on coal," framing it instead as a necessary step in combating pollution. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a vocal critic of EPA policies, accused the agency of advancing what he labeled as Biden's "Green New Deal" agenda, decrying what he perceives as an overreach by unelected bureaucrats.

As legal battles intensify and political tensions simmer, the regulatory landscape remains fraught with uncertainty, underscoring the complex interplay between governmental authority, industry interests, and environmental imperatives.