Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy Under a Biden Administration

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

As of Nov. 7, 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden became the presumptive president-elect of the United States according to projections made by the Associated Press and various other media outlets. The change in administration will bring a shift in the direction of energy and environmental policy. The Trump administration prioritized reducing the burden of environmental regulation as part of regulatory reform efforts. These reforms were met with very vocal pushback from the environmental community. Following the 2018 mid-term election, energy and environmental policy discussions were dominated by debate in the new Democratic House majority over ambitious climate change legislation—such as the Green New Deal championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The extremely partisan debate over climate change legislation became a central piece of candidates’ platforms in the 2020 general election. During the election, Biden attempted to find a less controversial approach on environmental policy, eschewing the Green New Deal for his own clean energy and environmental justice plans.

This memorandum will identify what campaign promises made by the Biden administration on energy and environment may be achievable based on the outcome of the 2020 general election. First, this memo will briefly cover the outcome of the 2020 general election—pending state certifications and the outcome of the Georgia U.S. Senate races. Then, this memo will briefly discuss the legislative feasibility of any energy and environment legislation in the 117th Congress. Next, this memo will explore the many expected executive branch actions that will be necessary for the Biden administration to fulfill promises made on the campaign trail. Additionally, some thoughts on the role of courts in assuring or dashing environmental policy hopes will be briefly explored. Biden transition teams for key agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of the Interior will be identified and rumored nominees will be highlighted. Finally, other key agencies and offices will also be explored.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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