With a few strokes of his pen, President Joe Biden on Wednesday rejoined an international climate agreement and endorsed additional executive actions aimed at reversing Donald Trump's approach to environmental policies, beginning a shift expected to reverberate across Colorado's economy amid a historic drought and in the wake of wildfires that ravaged the state last summer.
"A cry for survival comes from the planet itself," Biden said during his inaugural address. "A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear."
Biden signed an executive order recommitting the United States to the Paris climate agreement, a sweeping global accord to reduce greenhouse emissions rejected by Trump during his first year in office.
The gist of the Paris agreement was embraced by Colorado in 2017 when Trump announced the United States would withdraw. Then-Gov. John Hickenlooper — now the state's junior senator, following the Democrat's election in November — joined with a dozen other states and Puerto Rico in a commitment to adhere to emission goals set by the 2015 international agreement.
Biden also canceled the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a proposed 1,700-mile pipeline to carry oil from southwest Canada to the Gulf Coast, passing through Colorado's neighboring states and providing more than 1,000 jobs.
Among the 17 executive actions taken by the president on his first day in office, Biden also ordered federal agencies to review and begin to restore more than 100 environmental regulations that were watered down or revoked by the Trump administration.
A poll conducted in September 2020 of 400 Colorado voters found that three-quarters were more concerned about climate change in light of the historic wildfires that tore through the state in late summer. The Biden campaign’s platform acknowledged that the western U.S. is warming “faster than much of the rest of the lower 48” states, and two of his executive orders will take steps toward controlling the effects of climate change.
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat and the Rocky Mountain West's representative on the House's Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, hailed Biden's actions as ushering in a "new era for climate action."
"In Colorado, we have experienced the impacts of climate change tangibly through devastating wildfires, increased flooding and climate-related weather events," Neguse said in a statement. "Our communities are ready for bold leadership and bold action to tackle the existential threat of climate change."
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Neguse added, "will trust the scientists, and will work to invest in clean energy jobs and climate solutions.”
Though rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change and revoking oil and gas development at certain national wildlife monuments — including in Utah — will not have an immediate effect on the global problem, Biden’s agenda includes a bevy of economic, infrastructure and emissions-based solutions.
The Colorado Fiscal Institute estimates that roughly 29,300 jobs in the state are directly related to the oil and gas industry, while Noble Energy notes that the total economic impact of the industry extends to 10 times as many jobs. To that end, the extraction sector is worried about the extent of Biden’s energy policies.
“You go from having a champion in the White House, who steers the entire federal apparatus to wanting you to be successful, to someone who is hostile to the industry,” said Tom Pyle of American Energy Alliance, according to The Denver Post.
On Thursday, Biden announced a 60-day suspension of most new leasing and drilling permits on public lands and waters, although it is a move that will not affect the nearly 1,400 permits that Trump officials granted in recent months.
“Most, if not all of the Trump Administration’s public lands actions will be targets for reversal in the Biden administration as part of a comprehensive public lands agenda,” wrote Peggy Otum, Rachel Jacobson and Heidi K. Ruckriegle with the international law firm WilmerHale. “He has emphasized that he does not intend to ban fracking but rather to impose a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on public lands.”