Biden to discuss climate change in Somerset on Wednesday

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN departs Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the Georgetown section of Washington, after attending a Mass in Washington July 17. Biden will travel to Somerset, Mass., on Wednesday to promote his efforts to combat climate change but will stop short of issuing an emergency declaration that would unlock federal resources to deal with the issue. / ANDREW HARNIK / ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden will travel to Somerset, Mass., on Wednesday to promote his efforts to combat climate change but will stop short of issuing an emergency declaration that would unlock federal resources to deal with the issue, according to a person familiar with the president’s plans.

Biden is expected to visit the shuttered Brayton Point Power Plant that’s being turned into a wind power hub.

Biden could announce other steps on climate change but the White House has not released details. He has pledged to push forward on his own in the absence of congressional action.

The person familiar with Biden’s intention to hold off on making an emergency declaration spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly. It was not clear whether an emergency declaration remained under consideration for later action.

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Biden has been under pressure to issue an emergency declaration after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., pulled out of negotiations over climate legislation. Biden has been trying signal to Democratic voters that he’s aggressively tackling global warming at a time when some of his supporters have despaired about the lack of progress.

An emergency declaration by Biden could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other fossil fuel projects. However, many of those steps would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.

The president vowed late last week to take robust executive action on climate after Manchin — who has wielded outsized influence on Biden’s legislative agenda because of Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate — hit the brakes on negotiations over proposals for new environmental programs and higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

One of the biggest backers of fossil fuels within the Democratic caucus, Manchin has blamed persistently high inflation for his hesitation to go along with another spending package. His resistance has enraged other congressional Democrats who have ramped up pressure on Biden to act on his own on climate.

The president “needs to go big on climate — starting by declaring a climate emergency so we can take bold action NOW on the disastrous impacts climate chaos has on our health, environment, and economy,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., tweeted Tuesday morning.

John Podesta, chair of the board of directors at the Center for American Progress, said environmental leaders met with senior White House officials on Friday to discuss policy ideas.

Some proposals included ramping up regulations on vehicle emissions and power plants. They also want Biden to avoid an expansion in domestic drilling.

“If he’s going to make good on his commitments to do everything he can to bring emissions down, he’s got to pay attention to those critical regulatory issues that are facing him,” Podesta said.

Brayton Point Power Station was one of the largest power plants in New England before it closed in 2017. It had burned coal since 1963 as New England’s largest coal plant. It took just a matter of seconds for two 500-foot cooling towers to be brought down in 2019. They were believed to be the tallest such structures ever brought down in a controlled demolition at the time.

An Italian cable manufacturing company, Prysmian Group, finalized an agreement on Feb. 17 to acquire a 47-acre parcel at the site to make subsea transmission cables that will bring power generated by offshore wind to the electrical grid.

The investment in Somerset was part of Avangrid Renewables’ successful bid to the state for a future offshore wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, south of Martha’s Vineyard. The Commonwealth Wind project was selected by Massachusetts in December to move forward to contract negotiations to provide 1,200 megawatts of power to the state in 2027. That’s enough to power about 750,000 homes annually.

Prysmian Group is spending about $200 million on the new manufacturing facility. Avangrid and Prysmian Group said they chose the site because of its waterfront industrial location and acreage.

(Material from Providence Business News was used in this report.)

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