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President-elect Joe Biden took the stage at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware Saturday afternoon to unveil a list of various nominees for key energy and climate positions, including potential Home Office Heads of the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.
« We’re in a crisis, » Biden said before announcing his climate team. « Just as we need to be a unified nation in response to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change. «
Biden said his team was « brilliant », « qualified » and « accessible ». « The former vice president described them as the right people to embrace his ambitious climate plan that includes the return of the U.. S.. . on the Paris climate agreement and investing trillions of dollars in green infrastructure in the hope of pushing the country to become carbon neutral by 2050. Biden promised that the guidelines his new cabinet represented would be a sharp change from a Trump administration that cut pollution standards, denied science, and dismantled the regulatory state. Among other things, the president-elect pledged to restore Obama-era fuel efficiency standards and give workers priority over large corporations.
« There’s one more big thing we’re going to do: get us on track to create a carbon-free, green electricity sector by 2035 that no future president can refuse, » said Biden.
Biden’s decision to direct the interior is made by New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland, who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna and has the legacy of Jemez Pueblo. Haaland will be the first Native American woman to hold a position in a presidential cabinet if approved by the Senate.
After being introduced by Biden, a tearful Haaland accepted his nomination and reminded viewers of the earlier domestic actions attempting to eradicate tribal nations, native languages and indigenous cultures across the country. « This moment is profound when you consider that a former interior minister once announced his goal of » civilizing or exterminating « us – I am living proof of the failure of this terrible ideology, » said Haaland. « I also stand on the shoulders of my ancestors and of all the people who sacrificed so that I can be here. «
If confirmed, Haaland will oversee the management and conservation of more than 500 million acres of state and natural resources. She promised that her division’s decisions on climate crisis management during her tenure will be « again science-driven » and guided by environmental justice for marginalized communities.
Biden has named Michael Regan, Secretary of the Environmental Quality Division in North Carolina, to lead the EPA. If this is confirmed, Regan will be the first black man to run the agency responsible for protecting the environment and the health of the nation’s citizens.
On Saturday, Regan shared his outdoor childhood with family and friends, reminding them that his curiosity about how health relates to the environment is based on his own experiences with asthma. Regan, a former EPA intern, said he wanted to restore trust between state environmental departments and the federal agency so that the EPA could once again become a « strong partner of states, not a roadblock ». «
« We will be driven by our conviction that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water and a healthier life, no matter how much money they have in their pockets, what skin color they have or the community that they live in, « Regan promised. « We will address climate change urgently. «
Gina McCarthy, an environmental health and air quality expert who previously served as EPA administrator under President Obama, is the first national climate advisor. Like many of the other nominees, McCarthy combined her work with a formative childhood experience, in her case growing up in a polluted community in Massachusetts. Her background led her to a career in public service where McCarthy helped communities like hers overcome the « legacies of environmental damage » that have threatened their health and livelihoods.
« Back when I was in high school the nuns jumped up and said, ‘Run, close the windows in your classrooms’ because when the rubber factory across the street started spitting chemical stings in the air, it would come into our classroom, « she recalled. « That smell kept us off the break for more days than I or my teacher had ever thought. «
As a domestic « climate bazaar », McCarthy will be responsible for coordinating climate action between Congress and several federal agencies and pushing for policies that address the myriad of problems caused by the climate crisis.
Not only has Biden pledged to put environmental justice at the forefront of his climate policies, but he has pledged to mobilize infrastructure investments to create millions of jobs for American workers. Enter Jennifer Granholm, his candidate to head the Department of Energy.
Granholm was the first woman to serve as governor of Michigan. She said her commitment to clean energy was « forged by fire » when the Great Recession of 2008 nearly collapsed the auto industry in her state. She has promised to help create jobs that American workers would sustainably employ, drawing on Biden’s presidential campaign slogan, « Build Back Better. ». «
« The road to better rebuilding begins with building and making and using these products here – stamping in America, » Granholm said. « I know what these jobs will mean for the planet and for these workers and families. «
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