Thought Leadership

Biden Administration First 100 Days Weekly Report - Episode 9

Client Updates

In the latest installment of our video series on important regulatory and legislative events in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, Baker Botts Partner Alexandra Dunn provides an update on the Administration's major steps to reducing greenhouse gases. 

Senior Associate Justin Blass gives us the latest on the $100 billion allocated to improving and expanding broadbands services to all Americans and "future proofing" the nation's broadband infrastructure. 

Partner George Fibbe looks at the U.S. Department of Energy's proposed rule reversing the previous administration's changes to its "Process Rule", revising energy conservation standards and test procedures under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. 

We will continue to provide weekly updates on the relevant administrative and legislative actions through the first 100 days. 

This week, the Administration took major steps to  reduce greenhouse gases.The D.C. Circuit Court granted the Biden EPA’s request to vacate two Trump Administration air regulations – no longer in place is the “Significant Contribution Rule" which would have would have exempted from climate regulation sources that contributed less than three percent of the total amount of U.S. climate pollution. EPA will develop new, more broadly applicable greenhouse gas regulations that will impact sources like oil and gas which fell below the three percent threshold.

Second, the court vacated a Trump Administration rule delaying requirements that landfills capture methane emissions. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

Also, this week, EPA Administrator Regan announced that by late July EPA will strengthen tailpipe greenhouse gas emission standards for cars in the face of the climate crisis.

Finally, advancing the Biden Administration’s environmental justice commitment this week Administrator Regan directed EPA staff to “clearly integrate” environmental justice into all policy actions and to increase enforcement in minority and low-income communities

President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan includes $100 billion allocated to, Improving and Expanding Broadband Services with the goal of bringing reliable and affordable internet to all Americans and to, what the Administration calls, “future-proof” the nation’s broadband infrastructure.

In an increasingly interconnected society, and especially after the pandemic made remote working and learning commonplace internet access is increasingly viewed as a necessity. In its fact sheet for the plan, the administration declared that “broadband internet is the new electricity". The plan will emphasize unserved and underserved areas to expand reliable coverage areas and bring service to the approximately 30 million people who currently lack access to high speed internet.

However, it remains to be seen what types of technology and networks will be employed in the buildout. In addition to increasing access, President Biden’s plan also aims to make internet service more affordable by promoting pricing transparency removing some existing barriers to competition and supporting networks owned by or affiliated with local governments, cooperatives and nonprofit organizations.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy released a proposed rule that would reverse the previous administration’s changes to what DOE’s calls its "Process Rule" which is the process it uses for revising energy conservation standards and test procedures under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act .

This Act and the energy efficiency standards at issue apply to a wide variety of home appliances and commercial equipment. DOE asserts that its new revisions will streamline its rule-making process, and they are generally aimed .at providing the Department greater discretion and flexibility as to how it goes about developing and issuing energy efficiency regulations. In 2020, the previous Administration amended the "Process Rule" and in that case it was to do several things.

First of all, in February 2020, DOE revised the Process Rule to:

(1) reduce discretion by making the Process Rule binding on the Department and limiting the use of certain rulemaking procedures,

(2) create an energy-savings threshold that updated or new rules must meet, and

(3) further endorse the use of industry-standard test procedures to measure energy conservation compliance.

The current administration's proposed rule would largely eliminate the changes that the previous administration made, not long ago.

In particular, the new proposed rule would revert the agency’s energy conservation standards development process back to the 1996 Process Rule by restoring the agency’s discretion to depart from the Rule’s guidance, removing the energy-savings threshold, and allowing DOE to make modifications to industry test procedure standards


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