New Report: Many environmental rollbacks still on the books

Media Contacts
Lisa Frank

Executive Director, Environment America Research & Policy Center; Vice President and D.C. Director, The Public Interest Network

Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Despite congressional uncertainty, opportunities for Biden action


WASHINGTON — While future control of both houses of Congress is in limbo, a new report finds President Joe Biden still has multiple opportunities to protect the environment before the end of the year. The Next Things to Fix: Actions the Biden administration can take to protect our environment, by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, identifies 16 outdated or weakened standards that have not been replaced with greener policies. The groups also released 10 recommendations for actions President Biden could take immediately to safeguard the United States’ majestic public lands, clean up the air and water and reduce climate-warming pollution.

“The most durable and meaningful environmental progress has historically come from Congressional, not administrative, action such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Great American Outdoors Act and just this summer, game-changing tax credits that will supercharge our ability to use clean, renewable energy,” noted Lisa Frank, executive director of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Washington Office. “That doesn’t mean we should tolerate keeping bad policies on the books that leave our air, water and beautiful places at risk from pollution.” 

In his first two years in office, President Biden secured significant legislation to support the environment, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and record-breaking climate funding for climate solutions via the Inflation Reduction Act. His administration also completed four of the 20 actions initially recommended as “first things to fix” by the authors in December 2020 and set in motion progress on many others. Still incomplete: making appliances more efficient, restoring Roadless Rule protections to the Tongass National Forest and reducing soot pollution from power plants.

“President Biden can’t solve climate change all by himself, nor should we expect him to,” said Matt Casale, the director of climate and environmental campaigns for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “But the president still has many items on his clean air and climate to do list which can’t be addressed purely through state or individual action, including reducing soot pollution from power plants and ending methane flaring by oil and gas companies. Ticking these off should be his next priorities.” 

The report also notes several areas where recent progress is at risk. Efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections to wetlands and streams may be curtailed by a pending Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA, and a lawsuit alleges they have exempted many coal ash ponds from regulations. The Biden administration is now required by the Inflation Reduction Act to conduct some offshore oil and gas leasing. 

President Biden, argue the authors, is also undercutting climate and environmental gains by supporting legislative proposals to hasten permitting for pipelines, mines, transmission lines and other energy projects.

Still, the authors are optimistic that green progress can continue. 

“President Biden could, in time for Thanksgiving, make our wildlife refuges safer for bees without whose pollination we’d have no cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie,” offers Frank, as an example. “By Christmas, he could give us the gift of new public lands to enjoy with our families by designating Texas’ Castner Range and Nevada’s Avi Kwa Ame as national monuments. And he can help Americans from sea to shining sea breathe more easily in 2023 by tackling soot and methane gas pollution before the New Year.”