Climate Reregulation in a Biden Administration

By Michael Burger, Daniel J. Metzger, Hillary Aidun, Susan Biniaz, Michael Burger, Jennifer Danis, Ama Francis, Michael B. Gerrard, Daniel J. Metzger, Amy Turner, Romany Webb, Jessica Wentz

This report charts a course for executive action that, under a new presidential administration, could fill a Climate Reregulation Tracker. For purposes of this analysis, we assume a Biden administration is in power in January 2021. We further assume that the new administration faces a divided Congress. As a consequence, we do not address the shape of potential climate legislation or reregulatory steps that Congress could undertake, though such steps would certainly be significant if they become available. The actions we discuss here are designed to restore (and enhance) facets of previously existing climate governance. Reregulating to address climate change is not uniformly an easy task. Where agencies have finalized rules that fail to incorporate or reverse climate mitigation and adaptation goals, for example, the process of reregulating will usually require starting the rulemaking process over. On the other hand, a new administration could revoke President Trump’s executive orders, memoranda, and proclamations, as well as certain types of departmental or agency directives and orders, immediately.

Throughout this paper we note the steps that a Biden administration can take to repair and rebuild the federal climate governance framework. These suggestions include, at the outset, executive actions for the President himself to take, and then address steps that each affected agency can take. Examples of such actions include rejoining the Paris Agreement, reapplying protections to various categories of public lands, reinstating or revisiting greenhouse gas emission standards for various major sources, revising energy efficiency standards to comport with the law, reestablishing processes to assess and account for environmental and public health impacts resulting from federal decisions, and enhancing resilience and equity through planning and standards for decision-making. We include, as an appendix, a draft executive order that President Biden could issue on his first day in office to instantly revoke as many of President Trump’s deregulatory actions as legally possible, reset policies for the entire federal government, and promptly begin the critical work of setting the United States on a path toward addressing the climate crisis. Even more must be done to address the climate crisis, and this paper does not set forth all the possible actions that a new administration could take, but the actions set forth here would be important and necessary steps.

Read the report Climate Reregulation in a Biden Administration in Columbia Law School's Scholarship Archive.