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Exclusive: The ocean is a critical solution to climate change, groups tell Biden

A coalition of 93 environmental groups, aquariums and outdoor recreation brands is urging the Biden administration to harness the power of the ocean to fight climate change, according to details shared exclusively with The Climate 202.

The groups on Thursday will unveil a detailed blueprint of recommendations to inform the first-ever ocean climate action plan, which President Biden announced on World Oceans Day this month.

“The ocean offers powerful solutions to address the climate crisis,” the blueprint says. “A successful ocean climate action plan will leverage both the mitigation and adaptation power of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes and provide important opportunities for the administration to reach its climate and justice goals.”

The groups that drafted the document include the Center for American Progress, League of Conservation Voters, Mystic Aquarium, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund.

Spanning about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, the ocean has absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat that greenhouse gas emissions have trapped in the atmosphere, threatening marine species and ecosystems.

Yet the ocean has the power to provide one-fifth of the emissions reductions needed to meet the more ambitious goal of the Paris agreement: limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

The blueprint offers recommendations across 12 key policy areas, including:

  • Expand responsibly sited offshore wind to meet Biden’s goal of generating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
  • Promote green shipping and ports as part of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which the United States announced plans to join at the United Nations climate summit in Scotland last fall.
  • Protect “blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes, sea grasses, coral reefs and kelp forests, which can store more carbon per unit than forests on land.
  • End illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
  • Reduce plastic pollution, cracking down on the 14 million tons of plastic that wind up in the ocean every year.
  • Address ocean acidification that is harming many ocean species and contributing to mass coral bleaching.
  • Enhance coastal resilience to protect communities from severe storms and rising seas.
  • Evaluate the potential of ocean-based carbon dioxide removal.

“A lot of times what people hear about the ocean is only bad news, like coral reefs and whales are in big trouble,” Miriam Goldstein, senior director for conservation policy at the Center for American Progress, told The Climate 202.

“That is true,” she said. “But we want this blueprint to be a message of hope and action: We know what we need to do to make a better future for the ocean and humanity. And here are some actions that can get us there.”

House Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) praised the blueprint in a statement, saying the document “outlines the bold, meaningful steps we need to take now to ensure a sustainable future for our oceans and planet.”

On World Oceans Day, Biden also announced that he would designate the Hudson Canyon about 100 miles from New York City a new national marine sanctuary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will solicit public comment on the contours of the sanctuary from conservationists, the fishing industry and offshore energy developers, among others.

Meanwhile, Biden tasked the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality with crafting the ocean climate action plan as co-chairs of the Ocean Policy Committee.

“In developing America’s first-ever Ocean Climate Action Plan, we will — based on ideas and input from across the country and the best available science — develop a blueprint for protecting America’s ocean resources from the impacts of climate change, and take advantage of the many climate solutions the ocean offers,” the office and council said in a joint statement. “This new report is welcome input and mirrors the clear scientific findings about the importance of the ocean as a solution to climate change.”

On the Hill

Exclusive: 175 House Democrats tell Biden to clinch deal on climate provisions in reconciliation

A coalition of 175 House Democrats is urging President Biden to secure a deal on the climate investments in his budget reconciliation bill, which passed the House in November but has stalled in the Senate for months, according to a letter shared exclusively with The Climate 202.

“We write to urge you to do everything in your power to reach a deal and sign into law as swiftly as possible a revised reconciliation package that includes the climate investments passed by the U.S. House of Representatives,” the Democrats wrote in the letter. “These investments were some of the many important provisions in that package, and we would support a deal that includes as much of the House-passed bill as possible.”

The letter was organized by the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, New Democrat Coalition and House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition. It was signed by 13 committee chairs.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), New Democrat Coalition Chair Suzan DelBene (Wash.) and SEEC Co-Chairs Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), Paul Tonko (N.Y.) and Doris Matsui (Calif.) will hold a news conference on Capitol Hill today to amplify their message.

The budget reconciliation package has stalled in the Senate since December amid opposition from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has continued to meet with Manchin to discuss a possible deal, but Democrats have a narrow legislative window before the July Fourth holiday and the August recess.

“The window to achieve a deal is rapidly closing,” the letter says, “and so time is of the essence.”

House Republicans ask Biden to rethink solar tariff exemptions

Reps. Robert E. Latta (R-Ohio) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led a letter on Wednesday urging President Biden to undo his recent tariff exemptions for America’s solar industry amid an ongoing Commerce Department investigation into alleged dodging of tariffs by Chinese manufacturers.

“Regardless of the outcome of the DOC investigation, the decision to waive tariffs sends a clear message to our foreign adversaries that our trade enforcement laws will not be upheld by your Administration,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

The Biden administration paused the tariffs this month in the hopes of getting hundreds of stalled solar projects back on track. Commerce’s probe carries the threat of retroactive tariffs, which left the industry fearing crushing costs.

Pressure points

Biden open to using Defense Production Act to boost gasoline output

President Biden is willing to use the Defense Production Act to bolster the nation’s supply of gasoline and lower costs at the pump, Ari Natter and Jenny Leonard of Bloomberg News report.

“Already, the president has demonstrated his willingness to use that emergency power to lower costs for families,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing Wednesday when asked about using the act to increase refinery capacity. “We’re saying that the president has used it before and he’s willing to do that again,” she added, referring to Biden’s recent moves to invoke the Cold-War era law to boost domestic solar power manufacturing and increase the supply of baby formula. 

Meanwhile on Wednesday morning, Biden urged the CEOs of some of the nation’s largest oil companies to increase production, warning the fossil fuel giants that he is considering invoking “emergency authorities” to boost refinery output, Ben Geman and Andrew Freedman report for Axios. 

“At a time of war — historically high refinery profit margins being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” Biden wrote in a letter sent to the heads of ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP America, Shell, Phillips 66, Marathon and Valero.

In response, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers wrote to Biden that “U.S. refineries are operating at or near maximum utilization.” The trade groups noted that U.S. refineries are running at 94 percent of capacity, adding that about half of U.S. refinery shutdowns have resulted from conversions to renewable fuel production.

Agency alert

Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ more dangerous than once thought, EPA warns

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced that a group of human-made chemicals found in products used daily by millions of Americans poses a greater risk to health than previously thought, The Washington Post’s Dino Grandoni reports. 

The chemicals, known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have been found in drinking water, cosmetics, cookware and food packaging and are linked to infertility, thyroid issues and cancer. 

While the federal government does not regulate PFAS, EPA’s advisory is aimed at encouraging local officials and utilities to install water filters and take other measures to tackle the toxic chemicals, which can last for years without breaking down. 

The agency is already slated to propose rules for two of the most common PFAS this fall. And Radhika Fox, head of the EPA’s water office, told reporters during a Tuesday call that the agency is considering more sweeping measures to crack down on the entire category.

In the atmosphere

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