Joe Biden

Background Press Call by Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Brenda Mallory, White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe, and Senior Administration Officials on President Biden's Historic Actions to Mark Earth Day

April 19, 2024

Via Teleconference

4:35 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining today's press call previewing new actions President Biden will announce on Earth Day and to highlight the Biden-Harris administration's historic progress in tackling the climate crisis and conserving our nation's lands and waters.

The call will begin with on-the-record remarks from Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Brenda Mallory, White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe.

After their remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session that will be on background and attributable to "senior administration officials."

As a reminder, the materials you received over email and the contents of this call are embargoed until 5:00 a.m. Eastern on Monday.

With that, Chair Mallory, I will turn it over to you.

CHAIR MALLORY: Thanks so much, Angelo. Hello, everyone. It's a pleasure to be here.

The timing of this call is really fitting since National Park Week kicks off tomorrow. And I hope that everybody takes a moment to take advantage of the waived entrance fees on Saturday at parks -- something that I think we can all -- we can all benefit from getting away from our desks.

Earlier today, we launched, a new resource hub to help connect people with information, tools, resources, and opportunities to support land and water conservation in communities across the country. This includes finding places to recreate outdoors, to volunteer on public lands, and a financial assistance tool to access grant opportunities.

As you know, President Biden established our first national conservation goal to protect, conserve, and restore at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

We are on track to meet that goal. As of today, President Biden has conserved more than 41 million acres of lands and waters in just over three years. And he is on track to conserve more lands and waters than any president in history.

Ahead of Earth Day, the Biden-Harris administration has taken a series of major steps forward on the President's historic land and water conservation agenda.

Today, the Interior Department acted to protect more than 13 million acres in the Western Arctic of the -- of Alaska.

These special areas, including lands in and around Teshekpuk Lake and Colville River, are a rugged and wild landscape that provides undisturbed habitat for wildlife, including grizzly and polar bears, caribou, and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.

Importantly, the BLM also announced that it is inviting public input on whether to expand these protections or whether to protect additional special areas in the Western Arctic.

The Bureau of Land Management released its final environmental review for the Ambler Road project, which would span 211 miles of significant wildlife habitat, pristine waters, and subsistence areas through the iconic Brooks Range in north central Alaska, including Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

The agency's preferred approach is that the industrial road not be approved because it would have significant and irrevocable impacts -- land, water, and species -- including caribou and other subsistence uses for Alaska Native communities.

Also this week, we expanded four new wildlife refuges, which will allow for the voluntary conservation of over 1 million acres of wildlife habitat in New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas.

And yesterday, Interior finalized a landmark Public Lands Rule to help guide the balanced management of nearly 250 million acres of America's public lands, putting conservation and restoration on equal footing with other uses.

Here's the bottom line: President Biden laid out the most ambitious land and water conservation agenda in American history. And he is delivering, already cementing a legacy as one of the nation's strongest conservation presidents.

He is standing up to protect places that are simply too special to develop. He is safeguarding lands and waters that are sacred to Tribal nations. And he is making sure that we are passing cleaner water, healthier lands, abundant wildlife, and more recreation opportunities along to the generations that follow us.

I promise you we'll have more good news to share on the President's conservation agenda soon, including some announcements on freshwater conservation that I'll be excited to talk about next week.

And I could not be prouder that this great work on conservation is part of the broader climate and environmental justice agenda that we are driving and that the President will talk more about on Monday.

Thank you. And with that, I will turn it over to Ali Zaidi.

MR. ZAIDI: Thank you, Chair Mallory. Thanks, everybody, for -- for gathering on a Friday afternoon.

On Monday, the President will travel to Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia, a national park system site that was developed by FDR's Civilian Climate Corps. In the midst of a depression, President Roosevelt called on the American people to come together to take on the challenge and unlock the opportunity that sat inside of that -- the opportunity to heal, the opportunity to lift folks up and to move America forward.

The President -- President Biden -- will visit that site and talk about how the United States, in the face of a climate crisis -- a climate crisis fully manifest to the American people in communities all across the country -- is also an opportunity for us to come together -- for us to come together to unlock economic opportunity, to create pathways to middle-class-supporting careers, to save people money and improve their quality of life.

As part of that, two of the signature announcements from -- that he will make on Monday, the first will be about expanding the accessibility of clean energy, especially to low- and moderate-income Americans. We've seen over the last several years, thanks to President Biden's clean energy agenda, the payback periods on home improvements -- rooftop retrofits, appliances that save folks money -- those payback periods have been reduced. The accessibility of these technologies has been increased. And as a result, the American people are saving money.

The Solar for All program, which Deputy Administrator McCabe will speak to, is really, I think, emblematic of this swing-for-the-fences, big, bold climate action that the President has championed from day one. Not just solar for some folks, but really making sure that we're opening up a market where everybody, no matter their zip code or their economic background, can tap into the savings opportunity that clean energy represents.

So, with that announcement -- one that will help 900,000 households tap into solar on roofs and in community gardens -- I think we'll be able to speak to the incredible possibilities.

In addition to the announcement on Solar for All, the President will be taking steps to advance the American Climate (audio drops) he has launched through his executive authorities. The groundbreaking corps represents, yet again, a way to make accessible the economic opportunity and upside that comes with tackling the climate crisis.

So, for young people of all backgrounds -- no matter their qualification, no matter their zip code -- there will now be pathways and positions that they can fill that help them gain the skills to succeed in the clean energy economy.

And, you know, oftentimes when we talk about climate jobs, it's sometimes ambiguous what we're talking about. So, let me be very specific. That includes, for example, positions that will be opened up on a new website,, to learn how to become a solar installer. It will include positions to participate in mangrove restoration, which boosts the resilience of coastal economies. It will include positions to learn how to operate LiDAR, which helps pinpoint methane leakage and improve local air quality and tackle a super pollutant.

And part of what he will be announcing on Monday that's so exciting is that we have been able to strike partnerships with a few key collaborators. The first is a partnership with the North American [America's] Building Trades [Union]. With them, we will be able to offer the American Climate Corps members training modules that put them on an accelerated path into apprenticeships and into a union job and a middle-class-supporting career.

We will also announce that we've finalized rulemaking that creates a streamlined and accelerated path for American Climate Corps members who want to join federal service. Brenda talked about the 41 million acres that the President has added into conservation. Those acres require folks to facilitate the conservation activities. Whether it's park service members or forest rangers, the next generation of those employees can be sourced in the American Climate Corps.

And in addition to that, we'll announce new expansions of the American Climate Corps: three new states that will be launching partner initiatives; as well as a targeted expansion into energy communities, places that have powered America for decades, making sure that they are at the frontier of harnessing the new economic opportunity that's in front of us.

So, both of these announcements, together against the backdrop of the Civilian Climate Corps, the legacy that it represents, will show how the President, again, through clear vision and big, bold steps, has continued to move the United States to a leadership position on climate change; taken unprecedented and historic action; and is making sure that this doesn't just represent opportunity or possibilities for few but, really, comeback opportunities for communities all across the country and an economic surplus that's accessible to all Americans, whether it's by entering pathways to a climate career or plugging into the savings that come from clean energy.

So, again, very excited about the progress. And, of course, the President will be talking more broadly about his climate agenda from recent wins to advance decarbonization in the industrial sector with clean steel and clean cement; efforts to accelerate a clean transportation future of both in the passenger side but also in transit and aviation, rail, and other freight. He'll talk about the progress we've made in the building sector and in the power sector.

And as Brenda noted, he'll talk about how all of this work on climate has -- has as a common thread a focus on environmental justice and worker empowerment.

So, with that, let me hand it over to Deputy Administrator McCabe to speak to the Solar for All announcement in greater detail.

MS. MCCABE: Thanks, Ali. This is Janet McCabe at EPA. And thanks to Ali and Chair Mallory for their leadership and partnership on all of these incredible programs.

When President Biden took office, he promised to create an economy and build a future that benefits all Americans. He and the Vice President were relentless in their pursuit of historic legislation to help clean up our air and water, strengthen our economy, create good-paying American jobs, and deliver life-changing investments to communities across the country.

Thanks to their leadership, the Congress passed the historic Inflation Reduction Act, granting EPA more than $41 billion to help carry out this administration's ambitious goals.

One of the most innovative provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act was the creation of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which was designed to mobilize private capital to address the climate crisis, ensure our country's economic competitiveness, and deliver lower energy costs and economic revitalization to communities that have historically been left behind.

Today, I am so pleased to announce that EPA has chosen 60 applicants to receive $7 billion in grant awards through the Solar for All grant competition, enabling nearly one million households in low-income and disadvantaged communities to deploy and benefit from distributed solar energy.

The grant competition, which is funded by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, will provide funds to states, territories, Tribal?governments, municipalities, and nonprofits across the country to develop long-lasting solar programs that are targeted towards the communities and people who need them most.

Some specifics: EPA received 150 applications, and applicants were selected through a robust multistage review that included input from hundreds of experts in climate, power markets, environmental justice, labor, and consumer protection from across the federal government.

The 60 selected applicants include 49 state-level awards totaling approximately $5.5 billion. Six awards totaling over $500 million were selected to ensure that investments in solar energy are reaching Indian Country. And we're announcing five multistate awards totaling approximately $1 billion.

The multistate awards will reach people across the nation and invest in overburdened communities that the private market finds particularly challenging to serve. They focus on low-income communities; communities around historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and Tribal colleges and universities; households served by rural and municipal electric co-ops; families in the industrial heartland; and low-income customers who are unable to build rooftop solar but could still benefit from community solar.

This historic investment will generate more than $8 billion in savings on electric bills for the o- (audio drops) households over the entire life of the program.

And many of the 60 selected Solar for All applicants have already begun supporting low-income and underserved communities through innovative programs that are already bringing clean, affordable solar energy to homes in low-income communities.

With this new funding, Solar for All selected applicants can launch thousands more projects like these throughout every state and territory across the country. And let me give you a couple of examples.

Delmira Jennings and her husband, John, live in Athens, Georgia. With the help of selected applicant Capital Good Fund's Georgia BRIGHT leasing program, they were able to install a 13-kilowatt solar and 10-kilowatt-hour battery system in their home last February, which provided them with backup power for two days after a major storm last year.

Also, through the Solar Access for Nationwide Affordable Housing program, selected applicant GRID Alternatives' team in San Diego installed a solar energy system at an organization called Trolley Trestle, a group home for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. The new solar energy system will result in savings estimated at over $600,000 over 10 years, and that funding will be able to be reinvested to provide additional services to those who call Trolley Trestle home, including more job and life skills training.

And as a last example, the College of Menominee Nation, located on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, recently completed a 40-kilowatt solar installation project, which was funded through a $200,000 grant from selectee GRID Alternatives' Native-led Tribal Solar Accelerated [Accelerator] Fund program.

I'm so proud of the work of this administration so far and looking forward to these funds getting out into the community, giving people skills, putting them to work in their local communities, and allowing people to save on their energy bills so that they can put those dollars to other needs: a child's college fund or that car repair or medical bill.

Together, we're saving families money, protecting public health, creating good-paying jobs, and building a cleaner and healthier future where solar technology is affordable and accessible for all.

Thank you all so much, and I'll turn it back to you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Deputy Administrator.

Now we will transition to the question-and-answer portion of the call. As a reminder, this will be on background and attributable to "senior administration officials."

Please use the "raise hand" function on Zoom, and I will give you a minute to queue.

As you are called on, please make sure to identify yourself and your outlet. And if we could keep it to one question per outlet so that your counterparts can also ask questions, that would be great.

With that, Elena, you should be unmuted now.

Q: Hi, there. Thanks for doing this. Elena Moore with NPR News. I just have a -- kind of to put a finer point on it, this move on the American Climate Corps, you mentioned that this is going to help young people of all backgrounds. I mean, young voters, they have a lot of power this year. Can you talk a --


Can you -- sorry. Can you talk a little bit more -- more about the importance of -- of appealing to this group and how this program does that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, young people have their fingerprints all over President Biden's climate agenda. They helped us come up with a lot of the concepts that were passed in the Inflation Reduction Act. And one of the big calls for young -- from young people has been, "Don't just deploy the solutions; have us be part of that." I think there's a real hunger to participate in the problem-solving here.

We've seen really strong resonance from young people. As we took the executive action to launch the American Climate Corps, a huge interest in the sort of initial signups and expressions of interest. We've held a number of listening sessions, including with members of our Cabinet, Secretary Haaland; members of Congress, including representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey.

And in those listening sessions, again, the call was: Help this corps look like America, and that is our commitment; recruit far and wide; do it in a way that sets up not just for a year of service but a lifetime career in clean energy. We've taken those marching orders seriously. And I think what we're delivering will resonate a great deal.

And -- and it's not, you know, a promissory note. It's job postings that will put boots on the ground this summer.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We will go to Maxine next. You should be unmuted now.

Q: Hey. Thanks so much for doing the call and calling on me. There's been some reporting recently suggesting that the White House is reconsidering again a possible climate emergency declaration. Obviously, that wasn't part of today's call or the materials that were sent out embargoed for Monday. But can you talk about your thinking on that and whether we can expect that in the near future? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, Maxine. From day one, the President has seen the urgency of taking action on climate not just because of the situation it creates in our communities, represented in wildfires and floods and hurricanes, but also a profound sense of urgency to get American workers back in the game competing for the jobs of the future.

For -- for a number of years prior to the President taking office, those workers were sidelined, climate was scrubbed from the lexicon, standards were rolled back, and we disinvested both in solutions for climate change and our own competitiveness.

Just to give you an example of how we've turned the tide on that, look at the President invoking the Defense Production Act, an emergency authority to jump-start our solar manufacturing capacity in the U.S. Now we're on track to increase that capacity eightfold.

We used that same Defense Production Act to start, essentially overnight, a heat pump manufacturing industry. We've now gotten governors together from across the country to set a deployment goal in this decade not of a few heat pumps, not of thousands of heat pumps, but 20 million -- a big goal to get us going -- and the sheet metal workers and the unions training up the workforce necessary to do that work.

So, we've, I think, taken it -- taken climate on with the sense of urgency and the -- and the recognition of the stakes. And I think the President continues to direct his team to look at all tools, all authorities that will help us move forward on this objective, both of tackling the crisis and of unlocking the economic opportunity that comes with it.

MODERATOR: Thanks. We will move to Ben. You should be unmuted now.

Q: Yeah, hi. Super short question. It looks like the list of selected applicants for the Solar for All are not up yet. Will that link be live well in advance of the embargo lift? And, if not, is there a way to get a list of the selected applicants?

MODERATOR: I know a few of you have had this question. We will circle back with you on this.

Q: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. We will go to James next. You should be unmuted now.

Q: Hi. James Osborne, Houston Chronicle. Thanks for taking my call. Can you talk at all about how this -- this Solar for All funding will sort of be used in Texas and what sort of projects and areas you're focusing on in that state?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, this is [senior administration official]. So, the kind of fundamental construct of Solar for All is to make sure that families in every community in this country have access to low-cost clean energy. We know that installing solar on a rooftop or in a community garden near someone's home is a great way to cut their electricity bills and help them feel the benefits of the clean energy transition.

All of the selectees that will be announced on Monday have committed to programs and have designed state-specific programs that will use a mixture of rooftop solar, community solar, community-serving solar, and battery storage to deliver those benefits to communities across the country.

We'll provide more details as part of the announcement on what's happening in the 60 different geographies that will be funded here. But the -- the kind of through line for all of them will be solar projects that deliver the benefits of clean energy to households.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We will go to Carlos next. You should be unmuted now.

Q: Thank you. The President will be in Virginia on Monday, where construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline has continued and led to recent erosion and sediment issues in southwest Virginia. Does the President stand by his decision to approve all authorizations for the pipeline within the Fiscal Responsibility Act?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think your question answers itself. Congress in the legislation directed an outcome, and that outcome has now been implemented consistent with the law.

And while we're noting things that are being constructed in Virginia while the President will be out there, a project of over 2 gigawatts that will supply power to hundreds of thousands of Virginians, the first offshore wind project of the Mid-Atlantic, is also, this week, moving into construction with Dominion Power.

So, lots of, I think, clean energy build-out taking place thanks to the President's direct action. And -- and, as you note, yes, there is congressional action that took place that's -- that's being implemented as well.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We will go to Zach next. You should be unmuted now.

Q: Thank you for doing this. AP had a poll yesterday that showed most Americans -- and this includes most Democrats and R- -- and independents -- do not have a firm grasp -- either "not much difference" and "don't know enough to say" -- about how the IRA has affected the U.S. economy, U.S. workers, and climate change. What has been so difficult about communicating the benefits here to the American people?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Look, I think part of the President showcasing the solutions to taking on the climate crisis and the economic upside to workers and the American people -- part of him doing that on Monday on Earth Day is telling that story.

He did it also today at the IBEW, where he talked about how the Inflation Reduction Act, the infrastructure law, and his broader economic policy has meant nearly 2,000 clean energy projects and a restart of a nuclear industry that had been languishing, the build-out of charging infrastructure, and grid modernization projects for the nearly 2,000 folks in that room who are working on those jobs. They know that these policies are making a difference.

And, frankly, for the thousands of people who live in communities where we're going from shuttered factories to ones that are reopening and humming -- places like the 48C recipient announced this morning, TimberHP on Main Street in Madison, Maine, where there was an emptied-out, shutdown timber facility, now manufacturing clean energy solutions being shipped all across the world.

I think folks are feeling it. And -- and you better believe that the 900,000 households that will benefit from Solar for All -- and someone asked about the Texas footprint of that program, where the AFL-CIO is part of building out the capacity to install that solar -- people are going to feel it. The American Climate Corps members, they're going to feel it.

So, we're seeing the visible difference manifest in communities, in people's pocketbooks all across the country. And the President and his senior team is going to keep telling that story because -- because it's good news that begets more action, more upside for the American people.

MODERATOR: Thank you. And our last question will go to Emily. You should be unmuted now.

Q: Hi. Thank you so much. My question is about Solar for All. I'm curious if there was any special consideration given to programs that were -- like, that were going to really focus on pairing that solar with batteries. Just looking at, you know, the way net metering is evolving and thinking that that is going to be really important to maintain those benefits that -- that rooftop solar provides.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, it's part -- it was part of the -- the design of the program was to -- to give the applicants the opportunity to design programs for the specific geographic areas they wanted to serve that maximize the amount of benefits that could flow to households in those communities. And that's why battery storage was included as an enabling technology to help maintain the value of rooftop or community --- community solar -- solar projects.

So, yeah, there will be a -- there will be a battery component in many of the selected applicants here.

I think equally importantly, across the board, there is a commitment from all of the selected applicants to deliver at least a 20 percent utility bill savings to households in the programs that they design and serve. And so, there's a guarantee of energy cost savings for those families. Whether it's -- it's storage -- it's solar alone or solar plus storage or it's a subscription to community solar facility, the through line is that -- that families will be saving money as a result of this program.

MODERATOR: Thank you. And that is all the time we have today.

As a reminder, the contents of this call and the materials you all received over email are embargoed until 5:00 a.m. Eastern on Monday.

Thanks, everyone.

5:10 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Background Press Call by Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Brenda Mallory, White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe, and Senior Administration Officials on President Biden's Historic Actions to Mark Earth Day Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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