Biden reverses Trump's major environmental rollbacks with executive orders rejoining the Paris accord, cancelling the Keystone pipeline, and ending drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge

Biden reverses Trump's major environmental rollbacks with executive orders rejoining the Paris accord, cancelling the Keystone pipeline, and ending drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge
Jim Lo Scalzo/Reuters
  • President Joe Biden signed major executive orders reversing three significant environmental and climate change policies pursued by former President Donald Trump.
  • Biden rejoined the international Paris climate agreement, which former President Barack Obama initially signed in 2015 and former President Donald Trump took the US out of in November 2020.
  • He also revoked a critical presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and temporarily halted oil and gas leasing in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Just a few hours after being sworn in as the 46th US president on Wednesday, Joe Biden signed executive orders reversing three significant environmental and climate change policies pursued by former President Donald Trump.

Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which former President Donald Trump exited from in November 2020. Trump's rejection of the international accord came after four years of aggressive actions to roll back and eliminate environmental protections. Biden made action on climate one of his central campaign promises and worked with progressive Democrats in Congress to develop a $2 trillion plan that calls for 100 percent clean energy by 2035.
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Also on Wednesday, Biden revoked a critical presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline almost exactly four years after Trump approved the project. Obama halted construction of the pipeline, which would have carried crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of the US, in 2015. Many Democrats, environmental advocates, and Native American communities strongly objected to the $8 billion pipeline, about 300 miles of which has already been built.
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long supported the project and announced his government is "making sure that Canada's views are heard and considered by the incoming administration."

Biden also temporarily halted oil and gas leasing in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which would have become one of Trump's most destructive environmental legacies. The 45th president auctioned off drilling leases on the previously protected land in one of his last acts in office. But the sales brought in just a small fraction of the revenue Trump had promised and no major oil companies submitted bids for the land after the largest banks in the US and Canada pledged not to finance the operations.

The refuge is a critical environment for 270 animal species, including endangered polar bears and Native American communities strongly opposed drilling in the region. The Senate, now controlled by Democrats, will likely also act to reverse Trump's legal mandate requiring that another auction for drilling leases be held by the end of 2024.
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Republicans are critical of Biden's plans on the climate front. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican, argued that rejoining the Paris Agreement and cancelling the Keystone pipeline "will eliminate good-paying jobs." Trump refused to acknowledge climate change and has called it a "hoax" created by the Chinese.

US allies have celebrated Biden's long-held promise to rejoin the international agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized Biden's commitment to fighting climate change in a congratulatory tweet on Wednesday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also mentioned climate change as a "vital" issue he hopes to work with the US on in his congratulatory tweet Wednesday."We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time," Macron wrote. "Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet. Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!"
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