How the Biden Administration Can Keep Building on Historic Environmental Protections

How the Biden Administration Can Keep Building on Historic Environmental Protections

On top of securing the largest climate spending package ever, the Biden administration has made big strides in protecting public health and our planet through executive agency rulemakings. In just the past few months, it has finalized over a dozen major environmental protections. Public advocacy — including more than 347,000 comments from Earthjustice supporters — has played a key role in spurring the administration to act quickly and boldly.

During Earth Week, the Biden administration announced four new standards that will rein in power plant pollution and help the U.S. meet our climate and environmental justice commitments:

  • The first-ever limits on how much carbon pollution U.S. coal plants and new gas plants can emit
  • Stricter limits on mercury and other toxic emissions from oil and coal plants
  • A requirement that coal plants clean up hundreds of toxic coal ash dumps across the country that have been leaking toxic pollution into groundwater
  • Standards for coal plants that reduce how much toxic wastewater containing arsenic, mercury, and other pollutants they can dump into waterways

These rules will bring much-needed improvements to public health. The mercury emissions rule strengthens a regulation that has already been shown to avert 11,000 premature deaths a year. As for the new coal plant regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has calculated they will prevent over half a billion pounds of pollutants from being discharged into U.S. waterways each year. The agency estimates that 42 million people currently rely on drinking water sources likely contaminated with wastewater from coal plants.

Public health benefits are also a theme in many of the other environmental rules the Biden administration has adopted in recent months, from establishing the first-ever standards for toxic PFAS in drinking water to increasing protections for the nearly 180 million people who live in high-risk zones for chemical disasters at industrial facilities.

And many of the rules take steps to mitigate the climate crisis, from increasing the rate that fossil fuel companies must pay to drill on public lands to implementing stronger standards for methane pollution from the oil and gas industry to reducing tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks to restoring the nation’s foundational environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, bringing clarity to clean energy project sponsors and strengthening community engagement.

In total, these rules advance an ambitious vision for solving the most pressing environmental problems of our time.

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