Photo of Joe Biden

ICYMI: Biden Administration Lowering Energy Costs, Reducing Emissions, and Delivering Clean Water

June 17, 2022

Building on President Biden's historic announcements last week to use the Defense Production Act to boost American manufacturing of clean energy technologies and to make charging electric vehicles affordable and accessible for everyone, this week the Biden-Harris Administration announced new actions to lower energy costs for American families, protect frontline communities from dangerous water pollution, and secured new commitments from international partners to achieve energy and food security while tackling the climate crisis.

President Biden's latest actions received widespread press coverage and praise from Members of Congress, climate and environmental organizations, and more:

  • Advance efficiency standards that cut costs: The Department of Energy proposed new energy efficiency standards for residential gas furnaces that will cut greenhouse gas emissions and save households $1.9 Billion from energy costs annually. The proposed rule also requests comment on how the President's actions to spur heat pump manufacturing using the Defense Production Act will help to reduce costs for these super-efficient home heating and cooling devices.
  • Delivering Clean Drinking Water: This week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it's making $1 Billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law available to states and territories to address PFAS and other contaminants in water, particularly for small and disadvantaged communities facing disproportionate impacts. EPA also issued a health advisory reducing permissible health thresholds for PFAS to near zero to protect public health and access to clean water.
  • Raising Global Ambition to Strengthen Energy Security: Today, the President reconvened leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate to raise ambitions to tackle the climate crisis, while advancing energy-security and food security. This included a Global Methane Pledge Energy Pathway to capture and utilize methane leaks; Collective Zero-Emissions Vehicle Goal to achieve 50% of new sales by 2030; Green Shipping Challenge to decarbonize ocean-based shipping; and a Global Fertilizer Challenge to reduce agricultural emissions and strengthen food security.
  • Replacing America's Lead Pipes: Today, Vice President Harris announced $500 million for states and local governments to reduce lead exposure, in line with the President's Justice40 Initiative, and provided an update on the Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan. To date, the Administration has announced more than $4 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds and annual appropriations to replace America's lead pipes – while making it easier for communities to access funding, remediate lead in schools and child care centers, and remove lead from drinking water.

Making Homes More Energy Efficient to Cut Costs

CNN: New federal rule aims to phase out residential furnaces that waste natural gas
[Ella Nilsen, 6/13/22]

President Joe Biden's Department of Energy on Monday will propose a new rule to make residential, natural gas furnaces more energy-efficient. It would be the country's first significant update to furnace standards since the 1990s . . . The new rule comes as the Biden administration is focusing more on energy-efficient heating. Last week, Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up domestic manufacturing of heat pumps, among other things, an action that will still require funding from Congress. Senior White House officials will meet with lawmakers this week to talk about two bills that would help fund heat pump manufacturing in the United States.

The Hill: Biden administration proposes standards to increase home heating efficiency
[Rachel Frazin, 6/13/22]

Advocates for more efficiency described the Biden administration's proposal as a big deal. "This is the first meaningful update in about 30 years," said Joanna Mauer, technical advocacy manager at the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. "This is a big deal for climate and consumers, [it] would provide large carbon reductions and large savings for consumers and finally move furnaces to more efficient technology that's been available for a long time," Mauer said.

Yahoo News: Biden administration unveils new efficiency standards for home furnaces
[Ben Adler, 6/13/22]

In an effort to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, the Department of Energy (DOE) on Monday proposed new energy-efficiency standards for residential gas furnaces. The rule, if finalized, would help limit the release of carbon dioxide and methane. The new standard would require new furnaces to convert 95% of the gas they burn into heat. (Older models may have a conversion rate as low as 56%.) DOE estimates that this efficiency improvement, and the resulting lower gas bills, would save consumers $1.9 billion annually — or $500 over the lifetime of each new furnace.

Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., and Chair of the Energy Subcommittee, Illinois Congressman Bobby L. Rush: "This proposal is a smart, commonsense way to reduce energy costs for American families and we applaud the Biden Administration for taking every action possible to lower home energy bills. By updating these efficiency standards, Americans not only stand to save more than $1.9 billion every year, but also stand to benefit from substantial cuts to dangerous greenhouse gas pollution that puts an enormous burden on both our climate and public health. This is a giant leap toward more affordable energy and cleaner, safer air for all." [Statement, 6/13/22]

Chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, "Energy efficiency saves money, protects our climate, and helps cut off funding for Putin's war machine. @ENERGY took an important step today and I applaud them for following my 500 Day Plan to Energy Independence by prioritizing domestic manufacturing of heat pumps. I urge the administration to focus on bringing clean and affordable heat pumps to American consumers so we can lay the groundwork for an equitable clean energy future." [Tweet, 6/13/22]

New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen: "I led a letter to @ENERGY calling for updates to appliance efficiency standards to keep energy costs down for working families & reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Glad to see this proposal from the admin that will help build a more sustainable & prosperous future." [Tweet, 6/13/22]

Steven Nadel, Executive Director, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy: "At a time when global gas markets are in turmoil, this is a good step to help protect millions of families against price spikes that can send bills through the roof. We're one big step closer to finally moving past outdated furnace technology. The administration deserves kudos for stepping up with a strong proposal here. Now they'll need to move promptly and get the job done." [Statement, 6/13/22]

Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project: "Home heating bills strain the budgets of many households, especially those with low incomes, yet we're still installing brand-new furnace models that waste a lot of the heat. The Biden administration is right to phase out the most inefficient models. We've had far-more-efficient options available for years now. The new standard would reduce needless costs and greenhouse gas emissions." [Statement, 6/13/22]

Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, and National Consumer Law Center: "Today, national consumer groups hailed the release of the Department of Energy's proposal to increase energy efficiency standards for residential furnaces as a crucial step toward saving consumers at least $30.3 billion on their energy bills. The Consumer Federation of America, National Consumer Law Center, and Consumer Reports, upon initial review, are in support of the Biden Administration's proposed rule which will benefit the vast majority of consumers who currently have outdated, inefficient gas furnaces. The rule will save consumers money on electricity bills, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change." [Statement, 6/13/22]

Richard Eckman, Energy Advocate, Consumer Federation of America: "Although the harm done to consumers through years of inaction and stonewalling by the gas utilities on this standard cannot be undone, by adopting a higher standard today, future harm can be prevented. We will urge the Department to move with all due speed to finalize a long overdue, much-needed standard that does away with inefficient, energy-wasting furnaces so that consumers will pay less on their energy bills." [Statement, 6/13/22]

Delivering Clean Water with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Wall Street Journal: Biden Administration to Start Spending on Cleanup of 'Forever Chemicals' in Drinking Water
[Timothy Puko, 6/15/22]

The Biden administration said it is about to start rolling out the first billion dollars from last year's infrastructure bill to reduce drinking-water contamination from "forever chemicals," and it is issuing new warnings that the toxic substances may harm people at levels currently too low to detect. As part of Wednesday's announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency said it is also issuing updated health advisories based on new science on PFAS and that guidance is for a full lifetime of exposure.

Associated Press: EPA: 'Forever chemicals' pose risk even at very low levels
[Matthew Daly, 6/15/22]

The EPA on Wednesday issued nonbinding health advisories that set health risk thresholds for PFOA and PFOS to near zero, replacing 2016 guidelines that had set them at 70 parts per trillion. At the same time, the agency is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion under the new bipartisan infrastructure law to address PFAS and other contaminants in drinking water. Money can be used for technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training and installation of centralized treatment, officials said.

The Hill: EPA lowers safety level for 'forever chemicals,' weighs regulating them in groups
[Rachel Frazin, 6/15/22]

"Forever chemicals," a nickname for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a class of toxic chemicals that have been linked to illnesses including testicular and kidney cancers and thyroid disease. A Biden administration official told reporters on Tuesday night that the agency was lowering its health advisory — meant to inform the public about how much is considered safe to drink — for the two most notorious types of PFAS, known as PFOA and PFOS to "near zero" in new interim advisories.

Detroit Free Press: EPA revises health advisory guidelines on PFAS
[Keith Matheny, 6/15/22]

The updated advisory levels, which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below (the) EPA's ability to detect at this time," agency officials said in a release. "The lower the level of PFOA and PFOS, the lower the risk to public health." The EPA's action was welcomed by Anthony Spaniola, a Troy attorney whose family has for decades owned frontage property on PFAS-tainted Van Etten Lake near the former Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda, who has become an outspoken critic of the Air Force's response to the contamination.
Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.: "The science is clear that toxic PFAS chemicals pose a severe, demonstrated health risk to our communities, and are an urgent public health threat. I appreciate EPA's ongoing work to acknowledge the dangers of exposure to these 'forever chemicals' that are contaminating our water, especially their dedication to allocating resources to disadvantaged communities facing challenges with emerging contaminants." [Statement, 6/15/22]

Chair of the House Armed Service Committee, Washington Congressman Adam Smith: "Today's decision underscores just how dangerous PFAS 'forever chemicals' are for local communities, including our service members, civilian personnel, and their families … I am pleased that the Biden-Harris administration has taken full advantage of resources made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support a whole-of-government response to the PFAS challenge." [Statement, 6/15/22]

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal: "We must reckon with the lasting damage of 'forever chemicals.' The EPA is right to strengthen health advisories for PFAS & provide communities with funding, made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law, to address these contaminants in drinking water." [Tweet, 6/16/22]

New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen: "Every household should have confidence in the safety of the water coming out of their tap ... These new health advisories announced by the EPA are an early step in a critical process to develop national drinking water standards for several of the most prevalent types of PFAS." [Statement, 6/15/22]

New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan: "The federal funds headed home to address dangerous PFAS exposure in our drinking water is another important example of the bipartisan infrastructure law working for Granite Staters. PFAS can cause severe health issues, and we must address PFAS contamination in our water supply, which is why we prioritized these investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law that will now lead to real progress for our communities." [Press Release, 6/15/22]

League of Conservation Voters: "Huge thank you to @EPA and the Biden administration for taking these important steps to protect our health from dangerous #PFAS chemicals. We hope they keep going and move quickly to protect our communities from the full class of toxic PFAS chemicals." [Tweet, 6/15/22]

Natural Resources Defense Council: PFAS are dangerous "forever chemicals" used in everyday products like cookware & clothing that are linked to many health problems. Today's health advisory from @EPA is a good first step, now, let's get PFAS out of our water for good!" [Tweet, 6/15/22]

Mark Ruffalo, Actor and Advocate: "We have to fight for what we love, our children, and a cleaner, safer, more livable planet for them and all the life systems of creation. Stopping forever chemicals and getting them out of the water, land, and air is a priority. This is a significant step in the right direction." [Tweet, 6/16/22]

Emily Donovan, Co-Founder, Clean Cape Fear: "Today, Biden's EPA restored our faith in humanity. These 'forever chemicals' are toxic at trace amounts. We knew it five years ago when our friends were getting sick and dying. There's still a lot of work needed before our community can heal and we plan to keep holding the EPA accountable." [Tweet, 6/15/22]

Stel Bailey, Co-Facilitator, National PFAS Contamination Coalition: "The EPA had the courage to follow the science, something we've been demanding for years. This is a step in the right direction." [Statement, 6/15/22]

New Global Commitments Strengthen Energy Security

CNN: Biden to announce new initiatives on curbing methane, zero-emissions vehicles at international climate meeting
[Ella Nilsen, 6/17/22]

The US and European Union will launch the next step of their global methane pledge to reduce emissions of the planet-warming gas by 30% by 2030 . . . Biden will also announce a new global initiative focused on raising $90 billion to develop and scale new clean technologies to decarbonize, officials said. The US will devote $21.5 billion to this effort, with funds already passed in Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law. The US will also invite other countries to join the president's previously announced domestic goal that by 2030, half of vehicles sold in the US will be battery electric, fuel-cell electric or plug-in hybrid, officials said.

Reuters: Biden to lead major economies in push for more urgent action on climate
[Andrea Shalal, 6/17/22]

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday will urge China and other major economies to ramp up their efforts to combat climate change by cutting methane emissions, adopting ambitious targets for zero-emission vehicles and cleaning up shipping. At the third virtual gathering of the Major Economies Forum (MEF) under his presidency, Biden will also call on countries to spend $90 billion to speed commercialization of clean technologies, and to develop new fertilizers that cut agricultural emissions and boost food security, senior U.S. officials told reporters.

Washington Post: Biden repeats call to world leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions
[Steve Mufson, 6/17/22]

"We cannot, we cannot afford to let the critical goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to slip out of our reach," the president said to leaders at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. "The science tells us the window for action is rapidly narrowing." Senior Biden administration officials said the president was "laser focused on driving forward an agenda and actions" that would strengthen U.S. energy security and "bring together a broad coalition about taking action that meets the urgency of this moment."

Clean Air Task Force: "BREAKING: President Biden announced a series of global initiatives to increase energy security and address #climatechange at the Major Economies Forum today, including efforts to #CutMethane under the #GlobalMethanePledge." [Tweet, 9/17/22]

Climate & Clean Air Coalition: "Today, the United States, the European Union, and 11 countries launched the #GlobalMethanePledge Energy Pathway to catalyze #methane emissions reductions in the oil and gas sector, advancing both climate progress and energy security." [Tweet, 9/17/22]

Making Progress on Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Vice President Kamala Harris arrives in Western Pa. to discuss how infrastructure bill could help place lead pipes
[Hallie Lauer, 6/17/22]

During their trip to Pittsburgh, they will provide an update on the bipartisan Infrastructure law passed in November, including an allocation of $15 billion toward the removal and replacement of lead service lines. Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority began removing and replacing lead water lines in 2016 after it identified high levels of lead in the water systems. In 2019, the company started adding orthophosphate into the drinking water supply to reduce the lead that was leaching out of the pipes into the water. As of June, PWSA had replaced about 9,100 public and 6,000 private lead service lines using a combination of federal and state funding.

The Hill: Harris touts administration's lead removal efforts in Pittsburgh
[Zack Budryk, 6/17/22]

Vice President Harris highlighted federal action to replace lead pipes at an event in Pittsburgh on Friday. The bipartisan infrastructure law President Biden signed in late 2021 includes more than $4 billion to replace all the nation's lead pipes. Lead contamination of water supplies has been linked to lead poisoning and learning disabilities, most notoriously in the case of Flint, Mich., which exposed up to 12,000 children to lead.

CBS News Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh prepares for visit from Vice President Kamala Harris
[Patrick Damp, 6/17/22]

When Vice President Kamala Harris stops in Pittsburgh, she will highlight federal infrastructure funds that will be used to replace lead pipes carrying drinking water. The VP's visit comes as work to replace lead pipes on older infrastructure across Pittsburgh continues. Crews are replacing old lines on North St. Clair Street in Highland Park - one of several Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Projects. Its CEO said funding from the EPA will allow them to replace more than 850 private and 450 public lines next year.

Joseph R. Biden, ICYMI: Biden Administration Lowering Energy Costs, Reducing Emissions, and Delivering Clean Water Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/356525

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