As reported in last week’s blog post, climate change is one of President-elect Joe Biden’s top four priorities post-inauguration. Implementing policies to accomplish Biden’s climate change goals, however, is unlikely to be an easy process. First, climate change has generally not been a bipartisan issue in the Congress. Hence, unless the Democrats prevail in both runoff races in Georgia, Biden may struggle just to get his nominee for EPA Administrator approved by a Republican-led Senate, let alone to advance legislation. Even a 50-50 split in the Senate would present significant challenges. Additionally, new environmental regulations may face increased hostility in the courts, as nearly a third of all federal appellate judges were appointed by President Donald Trump. If those judges interpret federal law narrowly, they could limit EPA’s authority to act by striking down new regulations as not specifically addressed by existing statutes.
Despite these challenges, the Biden administration is likely to pursue sweeping changes to current environmental regulations to address climate change and other environmental issues — changes that are expected to have effects across all sectors of the economy. For additional analysis of how the Biden administration’s focus on climate change may influence environmental regulations, listen to Sidley’s webinar “Environmental Policy After the 2020 Election: Dawn of a New Era?” Specific concerns for the energy sector presented by a Biden administration are discussed here.