WASHINGTON (Jan. 20, 2022) In the first year of the Biden-Harris Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took significant steps forward in tackling the climate crisis, advancing environmental justice, protecting the health and safety of communities across the country, and restoring scientific integrity.
To mark year one of the Biden-Harris Administration, EPA is launching Perspectives, a series of commentary-style articles from EPA employees. Read the first Perspective from Administrator Michael S. Regan on the highlights of the first year HERE and watch a recap of some of Administrator’s favorite moments HERE. .
In 2021, Administrator Regan traveled to communities in 18 states, nine of EPA’s 10 regions, and three countries, where he met with local residents, key stakeholders, and elected leaders to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious environmental agenda. Administrator Regan and agency officials signed more than 50 rules to protect public health and the environment. The agency is also implementing the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and investing $60 billion to deliver safe and healthy water, pollution cleanup and community revitalization, and healthier school buses for children.
Tackling the Climate Crisis
EPA achieved significant actions to confront climate change and meet President Biden’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 50-52 percent by 2030.
Phasing Down Climate Super-Pollutant HFCs
EPA issued a final rule to cap and phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in the United States. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, as well as foams and other applications. A global phasedown of HFCs can avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100. This action, which was mandated by the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act in December 2020, will phase down the U.S. production and consumption of HFCs by 85 percent over 15 years and prevent emissions equal to 4.6 billion metric tons of CO2 from 2022 to 2050 – nearly equal to three years of U.S. power sector emissions at 2019 levels. This action was widely supported by industry and environmental stakeholders and will yield cumulative net benefits of more than $272 billion. EPA is also working with the Department of Homeland Security to prevent the illegal import and trade of HFCs through an interagency task force.
Cutting Emissions from Cars and Light Trucks
Following extensive public input, EPA issued the most ambitious federal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks ever. The final standards, for Model Years 2023 through 2026, leverage advances in clean car technology to unlock $190 billion in net benefits to Americans, including reducing climate pollution, improving public health, and saving drivers money at the pump. Through 2050, the program will result in avoiding more than 3 billion tons of GHG emissions.
Reducing Emissions from New & Existing Oil and Gas Sources
EPA proposed comprehensive new protections to sharply reduce pollution from the oil and natural gas industry – including, for the first time, reductions from existing sources. The proposed rule would lead to significant, cost-effective reductions in methane emissions and other health-harming air pollutants that endanger nearby communities. The rule would reduce 41 million tons of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035, the equivalent of 920 million metric tons of CO2.
Leading on Climate Adaptation
EPA is partnering with Tribes, states, territories, local governments, businesses and other federal agencies to increase climate resilience across the country. The agency published a Climate Adaptation Action Plan, created of a new Climate Adaptation website, and Administrator Regan affirmed the agency’s commitment to anticipate, prepare for, and avoid the disruptive impacts of climate change while also ensuring consideration of the disproportionate impacts on those who are already vulnerable.
Advancing Environmental Justice
President Biden and Administrator Regan made advancing environmental justice a priority from day one of the Administration and EPA followed through aggressively.
Putting Environmental Justice at the Center of EPA Actions
Administrator Regan issued agency-wide guidance directing all offices and regions to prioritize the advancement of environmental justice. The agency has followed through by taking action to protect overburdened communities, strengthening the role of enforcement, and directing $100 million from the American Rescue Plan funding toward environmental justice priorities including air monitoring, community grants, and children’s health efforts. EPA is also implementing the President’s Justice40 initiative, which aims to ensure at least 40 percent of the benefits of key federal programs are directed to underserved communities, and launched six pilot programs in support of the effort.
Connecting Directly with Overburdened Communities
Administrator Regan embarked on a first-of-its-kind “Journey to Justice” tour in the Southeast, traveling throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to spotlight longstanding environmental justice concerns in historically marginalized communities and hear firsthand from residents dealing with the severe impacts of pollution in these areas.
Honoring EPA’s Commitment to Robust Consultation with Tribal Nations
EPA announced it is proposing to withdraw and reconsider the agency’s October 2020 decision granting the State of Oklahoma’s request to extend its EPA-approved environmental regulatory programs into certain areas of Indian country. The decision was made after extensive consultation with the 38 Oklahoma Tribal nations this year and reflects the Agency’s commitment to ensuring robust consultation on all policy deliberations affecting Tribal nations.
Protecting the Health and Safety of Communities
The EPA under the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to the health and revitalization of communities across the country.
Investing in Safe and Healthy Water
Following through on the President’s commitment to replacing lead service lines and improving water infrastructure across the country, EPA announced more than $8 billion in total water infrastructure funding, which will create nearly 80,000 jobs. The agency also announced 2022 State Revolving Fund water program investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and asked governors to prioritize funding to address public health concerns like lead in drinking water and PFAS pollution in historically underserved communities.
Cleaning up Communities and Bolstering Economic Development
The Agency announced a $1 billion investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to initiate cleanup and clear the backlog of 49 previously unfunded Superfund sites and accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country. In 2021, through regular appropriation, EPA also invested $133,910,573 into assessing and improving 1,885 brownfields sites in communities around the country, creating 8,060 jobs.
Launching an Aggressive PFAS Strategy and Proposed Rules to Protect Community Health
EPA issued a comprehensive Strategic Roadmap to confront PFAS contamination nationwide and took significant additional actions, including launching a national PFAS testing strategy, restarting a rule development process for designating PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances, initiating regulatory actions under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to add four PFAS chemicals as RCRA Hazardous Constituents, and working toward setting a national primary drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS.
Stopping the Use of a Pesticide that Puts Children and Babies at Risk
EPA took action to stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food to better protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used for a large variety of agricultural uses, including soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops, as well as non-food uses. It has been found to inhibit an enzyme, which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurological effects in children.
Protecting Bristol Bay
EPA moved forward with new steps in the process to protect the Bristol Bay, Alaska, watershed under the agency’s Clean Water Act authority. Bristol Bay supports commercial, subsistence, and recreational fisheries that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year and create thousands of jobs. Bristol Bay’s fishery resources have supported a subsistence-based way of life for Alaska Natives for over 4,000 years.
Taking Action on Lead
Confronting the pervasive problem of lead contamination, EPA released a draft Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposures and Disparities in U.S. Communities. The strategy takes into account the new resources to reduce lead in drinking water from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and lays out agency and government–wide approaches to strengthen public health protections, address legacy lead contamination for communities with the greatest exposures and promote environmental justice.
Restoring the Role of Science
President Biden’s early executive orders detailed the important role of scientific integrity in the new Administration. EPA quickly followed through with guidance and actions.
Reestablishing Scientific Integrity as a Foundation of the Agency’s Work
Administrator Regan issued agency-wide guidance reaffirming scientific integrity as a core value at EPA and outlining concrete steps to reinforce the agency’s commitment to science. Administrator Regan also reset the Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, reversing deficiencies caused by decisions made in the prior Administration and helping ensure that EPA receives the best possible scientific insight to support the agency’s work to protect human health and the environment. Both committees now have the most diverse group of members in their histories.
Restoring Climate Information for the Public
After a four-year absence, EPA relaunched the agency’s climate change website and climate indicators web resource. The climate change website guides the public to a range of information, including greenhouse gas emissions data, climate change impacts, scientific reports, and existing climate programs within EPA and across the federal government. The climate indicators page is a comprehensive resource presenting compelling and clear evidence of changes to our climate reflected in rising temperatures, ocean acidity, sea level rise, river flooding, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires, among other indicators.
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