President Joe Biden on Wednesday will direct federal agencies to determine how expansive a ban on new oil and gas drilling leases on federal land should be, part of a suite of executive orders that will effectively launch his agenda to combat climate change, two people with knowledge of the president’s plans said Monday.
An eventual ban on new drilling leases would fulfill a campaign promise that infuriated the oil industry and became a central theme in the fight for the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania, where the natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has become big business.
The move is the most prominent of several that Biden with announce Wednesday, the two people said. The president also will direct the government to conserve 30% of all federal land and water by 2030, create a task force to assemble a governmentwide action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and issue a memorandum elevating climate change to a national security priority. Biden will also create several new commissions and positions within the government focused on environmental justice and environmentally friendly job creation, including one to help displaced coal communities.
The programs and proclamations are supposed to signal that climate change is back on the government agenda, bigger than ever. What they will not deliver, at least yet, is a steep and rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“Can this administration do a lot on its own? Yes,” said Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. “But,” he added, “if the standard, though, is atmospheric stabilization, I’m skeptical the administration can do anything near enough administratively.”