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Biden Team Signals Sharp Turn on Emissions

Obama-era stalwarts mark return to "green" path
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President-elect Joe Biden plans a return to Obama-era pollution and fuel economy rules for the auto industry.

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No surprise there, since he served as Barack Obama’s vice president. Biden signaled a strong environmental agenda as he launched his election campaign 20 months ago.

Back to Green

When President Donald Trump took office nearly four years ago, he wasted no time easing, suspending and/or scrapping many of the tough environmental standards put in place by his predecessor.

Biden is expected to revive at least an approximation of those regulations. His administration also is likely to drop Trump’s legal maneuvers to strip California of its rulemaking power to set its own emission standards.

Biden also has indicated he wants the government to support a shift to electric powertrains with investments in research, charging stations and perhaps heftier sales incentives.

Familiar Players

His transition team for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is headed by Patrice Simms, an attorney for the environmental law group Earthjustice. Simms has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration that seek to defend Obama-era regulations, Reuters reports.

The transition team includes Joe Goffman, who served as EPA’s general counsel during the Obama administration, and Cynthia Giles, who was assistant administrator for the agency’s enforcement unit. Other members include former Obama-era federal transportation officials.

Reuters notes that Biden’s handoff squads for the Dept. of Energy and Dept. of the Interior include people who served as regulators in those departments during the 8-year Obama administration.

Biden also has tapped one of the architects of the Paris Climate Agreement to join his Dept. of State transition team. The U.S. and 194 other countries signed the Paris pact, whose member pledged to halt global warming by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, in 2016. Trump opposed the accord, and the U.S. formally withdrew from it on Nov. 4.

What It Means

Biden’s administration wants to realign the U.S. with most of the rest of the world, which agrees that something must be done about climate change.

Doing so will inevitably mean higher costs for U.S. carmakers. It also will help keep them competitive with their foreign rivals, which have been grinding away at meeting tougher overseas standards all along.

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