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Background Press Call on the President's Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis

July 20, 2022

Via Teleconference

11:01 A.M. EDT

MR. HASAN: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. This is Abdullah from the White House.

Today, we'll be holding a background briefing on the actions the President will announce while in Somerset, Massachusetts, to tackle the climate crisis and seize the opportunity of a clean energy future.

As a reminder, the call will be on background, attributable to a senior administration official. It will be embargoed until the start of the President's remarks in Somerset today.

Not for reporting purposes but for your awareness, joining us for the call today is [senior administration official]. He will deliver some remarks up top, and then we will take your questions.

Over to you, [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, everybody, for joining. And really, really excited for an opportunity to talk to you about what the President will be laying out this afternoon in Massachusetts.

As the President, I think, has said from day one, we really face an urgent crisis in the changing climate. It's something that is becoming increasingly manifest across our country, whether it's in the wildfires or hurricanes, the extreme flooding events, or -- as is front of mind for the 100 million Americans who face different forms of heat advisories and warnings around the country right now -- extreme heat, which it has shattered 90 records around the country, which is driving folks to face increasingly severe health ailments, putting people in the ER, and which drives home the point that this is a clear and present danger for our country, for our health, for our economy, for our national security. And it demands that we take action boldly.

In addition to that recognition that what we face is a challenge, what we face is urgent, what has already been unleashed in terms of climate is devastating -- in addition to making that point, making it vividly and clearly, the President will also talk about the incredible opportunity that we have if we get our act together, square our shoulders, and take on the climate crisis.

And going to Massachusetts is a great opportunity for him to lay that out in a place that really represents the playbook for what it means to tackle the climate crisis in a way that can unlock tons of opportunity for our workers, for our communities, and for our economy.

Brayton Point, where the President will speak, used to be the site of the largest coal plant in New England -- 1500 megawatts, burning coal since 1963.

The President will speak to how we've had these sources of energy that had been critical to our economy over time and that we're seeing a transition to clean energy. And if we embrace that transition, then we'll see what's happening at Brayton Point happening all around the country.

Today, Brayton Point is poised to be on the frontier of the clean energy transformation. They're going to be manufacturing subsea cables that will help tie offshore wind plants into the grid. They're going to be the place where several wind projects actually tie in to the grid, bringing clean electrons into Massachusetts and into New England from where it's being generated off the Atlantic coast.

So, you know, I think part of what the President wants to do this afternoon is lay out that sense of urgency and the clarity around the impacts that we're already seeing, and also to lay out the urgency and the -- and his enthusiasm for tapping into the opportunity that we also have in front of us.

The other thing that you can anticipate is specific actions underneath both of those things.

First, on heat, the President will be announcing $2.3 billion in funding through the FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program for fiscal year 2022.

This is a program that existed prior to this administration. But this is the largest amount of funding under BRIC ever in the history of the country. And not only is it large, it is focused on helping communities build resilience to a broad set of climate impacts, including heat waves, which is particularly salient; doing it in a way that is going to support the administration's Justice40 Initiative and make sure that we're lifting up communities that have been disadvantaged.

And then in addition to the announcement on BRIC, the President will be talking about new guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services, which will actually allow communities, acting through the states, of course, to leverage the historic funding that the President has delivered to the LIHEAP program. That is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Used to be something that helped folks deal with heating issues in the wintertime.

This administration is broadening that program out, calibrating it to this new climate reality. And with it, states will be able to establish cooling centers, they will be able to help folks buy or lend efficient air conditioning units, help defray the costs that are incurred to keep cool during the summer for these vulnerable populations. And that's immediate. That's an incredibly important thing to get out there.

And then on the opportunity side, I think many of you covered when the President brought together state and local leaders, industry leaders, and union leaders together at the White House this past month to launch the Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership. Building on that, the President is going to the Interior Department -- direct the Interior Department to propose the first wind energy areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

For those keeping score at home -- you know, when we came into office, offshore wind was facing a uncertain future. Not only did this administration approve the first commercial wind project, Vineyard Wind -- which actually is a partner in building this facility at Brayton Point -- but it also opened up these wind energy areas all across the Atlantic, as far south as North Carolina; started opening up wind energy areas on the Pacific; and today we open up yet another coast and frontier in expanding offshore wind.

And at the same time, the President is also directing the Secretary of Interior to advance wind energy development in the waters off the mid- and southern Atlantic coast and off Florida's Gulf Coast, alleviating uncertainty cast by the prior administration.

So those are some of the actions the President will announce. And bottom line: You know, I think this is a -- this is an opportunity for the President, in part also, to just come out and provide his take on where we are on climate -- on the urgency, on the opportunity. And, of course, he had issued a written statement last week with regard to action in Congress. And this is an opportunity for him to also speak to that.

So with that, maybe, Abdullah, back to you.

MR. HASAN: Thank you, [senior administration official]. And we're going to go into questions now, but just before we do, I forgot to mention at the top, we will have embargoed materials coming around shortly. Sorry you didn't get them ahead of the call, but they will be coming to you soon.

With that, we'll go ahead and take some questions. If you would like to ask a question, please use the "raise hand" feature at the bottom of your screen.

Again, if you'd like to ask a question, please use the "raise hand" feature at the bottom of your screen.

And for the first question, we'll go Coral Davenport.

Q: Hi, guys. Thanks for doing the call. [Senior administration official], in addition to making these announcements, is he going to talk about the regulations that are currently under development at EPA, give any kind of update, any kind of timeline on those?

And also, are we going to see anything else later in the week? Karine suggested yesterday that there could be more to come. She said no climate emergency this week, but it potentially is still on the table. Will we see that? And will we see -- I mean, will we see any other -- you know, any other executive authority or orders or anything else in this space later during this week?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, I think the President is going to be very clear that since Congress is not going to act on this emergency, he will. He is going to state it loudly, he's going to state it clearly -- what he put in his written statement last week, and that is that as President, he will use his executive powers to combat the climate crisis in the absence of additional congressional action.

I think he will also lay out that, in the coming days, he expects his administration to begin to announce the executive actions that his administration has developed and is developing to combat this emergency. So I think you will hear that from him in his -- in his own words. And hopefully, that's responsive to part of your question.

On the second bit: This administration, really, almost on a daily basis, from January 21st, has been advancing climate action. So if you're asking me to forecast the rest of the week, yeah, we're going to keep taking climate action every single day because that's been part and parcel of this administration's focus. This is one of the four crises the President defined when he was inaugurated. And that direction has been very clear.

And I think what he -- what he has expressed and what he will express this afternoon is about accelerating that action, heightening that ambition, and using the executive powers to combat the climate crisis in the absence of additional congressional action.

MR. HASAN: Thank you, [senior administration official]. And we'll go to Ben (inaudible) next.

Q: Hi, good morning. Can you hear me okay? (Cat meows.)

MR. HASAN: We can.

Q: Thank you. One of our cats is joining, sorry. Anyway, I just -- not to overly parse words, but, [senior administration official], you said a moment ago that the President is going to be very clear that "since Congress is not going to act on this emergency." Does that mean that the President has concluded that there is no longer any option for a reconciliation package with these large clean energy incentives and investments?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, Ben, thanks. Thanks for -- thanks for the question. And I don't think we can hear the cats.

But -- but, I'll -- you know, I'll restate it: The President is going to lay out what he can do, what he intends to do. He has very specific executive powers. He has leveraged executive action to date. He has directed his administration to look at a broad set of options for how to accelerate those actions, to how to implement that -- those executive powers with the highest ambition, and that's his focus.

And I think the rest of your question -- probably there are other folks who can who can answer that better. And, you know, our focus is on what we can do in light of where we find ourselves between the urgency of action and the clarity of opportunity that's in front of us.

MR. HASAN: All right, thank you, [senior administration official]. I actually do think we are at time now -- 11:15. So, apologies if we weren't able to get to your question. Please feel free to follow up with me via email.

And, again, we'll try to get you the materials as soon as possible.

Thank you for joining. As a reminder, the call is embargoed until the President's -- the top of the President's remarks. And it is attributable to a "senior administration official." Thanks for joining.

11:15 A.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Background Press Call on the President's Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/356950

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