Executive Orders and Actions

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As predicted, President Biden came out swinging, taking actions in a variety of areas important to the cement industry. Below are some of the highlights impacting the cement industry. 

Paris Climate Accord

On President Biden's first day in office, he announced the United States’ reentry into the Paris Climate Agreement, reversing the Trump Administration’s withdrawal in 2017. PCA issued a statement welcoming the U.S. reentry into the agreement which was first signed in 2015 by the Obama Administration and 194 other countries to limit the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Trump Administration announced the United States would leave it in 2017. While the treaty is non-binding, reaching the nation’s nationally determined contribution may require substantial federal action across the economy, particularly now that the President has signaled that he will adopt a more aggressive reduction commitment.

Revoke Keystone XL Pipeline Permit

Additionally, President Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline would transport Canadian crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska, joining the existing U.S. pipeline system. It was first proposed in 2008, its permit was rejected by the Obama Administration but overturned by the Trump Administration. Construction of the pipeline created roughly 1,000 jobs and would move about 80,000 barrels of oil each day once completed. The pipeline would impact the cement and concrete industry by pushing overall oil and gas prices lower.

Assess Need for COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

In response to the Trump Administration’s rejection of Emergency Temporary Standards to protect workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19, President Biden directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to determine whether emergency temporary standards are required to protect workers against COVID-19. The Order gave OSHA two weeks to make its determination and until March 15th to issue an ETS should the agency find it necessary; the Order does not impose a deadline on MSHA in making its determination.

Broad Review and Rollback of Trump Policies

Consistent with past executive practice, Biden has directed Agencies to conduct sweeping reviews of regulations, guidance, and litigation positions developed over the last four years.  With a swipe of the pen, President Biden revoked most Trump-Era Executive Orders governing regulatory reform, environmental priorities, and infrastructure permitting.  An accompanying fact sheet identifies 95 separate actions targeted for review, include EPA’s Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule and guidance; EPA’s recent Greenhouse Gas Significant Contribution Rule, EPA’s NAAQS Rules for Particulate Matter and Ozone, EPA’s Coal Combustion Residuals Closure Rule, and CEQ NEPA Policies.

Reinstate Cost of Carbon Accounting in Regulatory Impact Analysis

The President’s Executive Order on Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis reinstated the Obama-Era policy of considering the potential climate impact of federal actions, from regulations to permitting to projects, during its cost-benefit analysis, To support these analysis, the Order directs OMB to work with an interagency task group to establish an interim carbon cost figures within 30 days, and final numbers by January 2022.  Based on the numbers in place at the end o the Obama Administration, the interim carbon cost under a 3 percent discount rate will be at least $40 per ton, and potentially higher. This policy is likely to inflate the benefits associated with new regulatory actions based on the alleged co-benefits of CO2 emissions reductions, and inflate the costs associated with project siting and permitting actions. 

Review and Modernization of the Regulatory Process

The President’s Executive Memorandum on “Modernizing Regulatory Review,” reaffirmed the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) role in coordinating agency policymaking and review, but also directed OMB to work with Agencies on recommendations for “modernizing” the regulatory review process to “promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.”  The Memorandum directs OMB to seek public involvement in this effort. 

Incorporate Environmental Justice into Government Decision Making

As part of its January 27 Climate Executive Order, the Biden Administration has identified environmental justice as one of its overarching priorities and has directed federal agencies to make environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency. The Order directs all agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities, and increase participation by disadvantaged communities in federal decision-making. The Order establishes a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council to ensure a “whole-of-government” approach to addressing current and historical environmental injustices, including strengthening environmental justice monitoring and enforcement. The Order also initiates the development of a Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tool, building off EPA’s EJSCREEN Tool, to identify disadvantaged communities and inform equitable decision-making across the federal government.

President Biden Convenes First National Climate Task Force Meeting

On February 11, the Biden-Harris Administration convened the first meeting of the National Climate Task Force, chaired by the National Climate Advisor and comprised of Cabinet-level leaders from 21 federal agencies and senior White House official.  The Task Force established a new Climate Innovation Working Group, outlined a proposed innovation agenda, and announced a $100 million funding opportunity from the U.S. Department of Energy to support transformational low-carbon energy technologies. The Climate Innovation Working Group will help coordinate and strengthen federal government-wide efforts to foster affordable innovative decarbonization technologies.  Among the innovation areas identified were: carbon-neutral construction material; carbon-free heat and industrial processes that capture emissions for making steel, concrete, chemicals, and other important industrial products; and direct air capture systems and retrofits to existing industrial and power plant exhausts to capture carbon dioxide and use it to make alternative products or permanently sequester it deep underground.

Emergency Temporary Standards

On February 23, PCA sent a letter to OSHA urging the agency not to issue COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) as they consider President Biden’s Executive Order (EO) on Protecting Worker Health and Safety. PCA shared with the Acting Assistant Secretary why an ETS is neither necessary nor practical in the cement industry, but also recommended that should OSHA determine an ETS will be issued, it should target high-risk industries and be flexible. The EO gives OSHA until March 15 to determine whether or not they will issue an ETS. PCA is continuing to monitor the situation and will update members of any progress.

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Relevant Presidential Actions

 

For more information on President Biden’s executive actions, please contact Charles Franklin at cfranklin@cement.org.