The election results indicate a Biden presidency.
Legislative Gridlock Will Continue on Environmental Issues
This Congress will not pass any significant environmental legislation nor increase funding for the Biden EPA, even if Georgia elects two Democrats to the Senate in its January 2021 runoff (which I view as unlikely).
Democrats need to win both Georgia seats to split the Senate 50-50 and allow Vice-President Harris to cast the deciding vote. However, even in that situation, one of the 50 Democratic Senators will be Joe Manchin, from coal state West Virginia. He has generally favored Republican policies on energy/environmental issues. Also, he has consistently stated he opposes changing the Senate rule that requires 60 votes to pass most legislation. For now, significant environmental legislation is very unlikely.
EPA’s Resource Constraints Will Continue
A Biden EPA will continue to struggle with resource issues. When Republicans gained control of Congress during the Obama administration, EPA funding was significantly decreased. One key result of lower funding has been fewer enforcement cases initiated by EPA.
Priority Will Be Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The Biden EPA’s priority will be greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If EPA has any discretion to allocate resources, it will be for staff to develop GHG regulations, a difficult task because Congress did not envision GHG regulation when it passed the Clean Air Act. As much as a Biden EPA will state a desire to increase enforcement, resources will prevent EPA from initiating significantly more enforcement cases.
As the Obama administration learned, using the current Clean Air Act to regulate GHG emissions is very challenging. This will be EPA’s focus; its ability to issue regulations that will achieve significant GHG decreases remains to be seen.