An environmental look at President Biden’s first year

Restoring lost protections is a highlight from the president’s initial 12 months in office

Clean air

Photo: White House
Max Wengroff

From toxic water pollution to increasingly fierce wildfires, President Joe Biden took office following years of rapidly growing environmental issues. In December 2020, Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a report, First Things to Fix, identifying five actions the Biden administration could set in motion on day one to protect the environment. The organizations also identified 15 additional actions that would have a significant impact on conserving our natural spaces, cleaning up our air and water, and combating the climate crisis. In April 2021, Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a progress report, President Biden’s First 100 Days, on those efforts.

Now, as the Biden administration completes its first year, we checked in again and found that the Biden administration has taken numerous important steps toward restoring many key environmental protections. In his first year in office, President Biden made bold strides in such areas as reducing global warming pollution, getting the lead out of drinking water, and preserving our public lands. Of our initial list of 20 priority actions, three are fully complete: Rejoining the Paris climate accord, restoring protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument, and supporting ratification of the Kigali Agreement which will phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

Our report found that President Biden made significant headway through administrative work. In addition, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law in November, went a long way to meeting important goals. Here’s what the infrastructure bill does for the environment.

That said, while there has been tangible progress, there’s more to do. The administration must continue undoing environmental rollbacks in 2022. Below is a list of the key policies we asked Biden to prioritize in the first year and a rundown on each one’s status.


First things to fix

Additional environmental priorities


Max Wengroff

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