When it’s 115 degrees (F) just across New Mexico’s northeastern border with Oklahoma and Texas, it’s time for the President to declare a climate emergency.
Our northeastern quadrant barely weathered the Dust Bowl in the 20th century and already spent the spring of 2022 burning from federal “controlled” burn decisions. But President Biden stopped short of declaring a climate emergency this week and, instead, put in place some stopgap measures. Among them:
- Assigning $2.3 billion in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help states build cooling centers to deal with excessive heat
- Investment in the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program to expand flood control, shore up utilities, retrofit buildings, and help low-income families pay for heating and cooling costs
- Offering potential for new off-shore wind projects in the Gulf of Mexico on some 700,000 acres the federal government could make available
- Expanding flood control funding
Declaring a climate emergency could authorize the President’s executive powers through the Defense Production Act (DPA) implemented by FEMA. The DPA is the primary source of presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of materials and services from the U.S. industrial base needed to promote the national defense, including emergency preparedness, protection or restoration of critical infrastructure; and efforts to prevent, reduce vulnerability to, minimize damage from, and recover from acts of terrorism within the United States and national defense. According to FEMA, DPA authority may be used to justify preferential performance of contracts and orders; provide financial incentives and assistance for U.S. industry to expand productive capacity and supply needed for national defense purposes; and to provide antitrust protection for businesses to cooperate in planning and operations for national defense purposes.
Supportive New Mexico Democrats could understand Biden’s reluctance to remind anyone of his predecessor’s wholly manufactured “emergency” declaration used to justify border wall construction that has left a brutal scar across New Mexico’s southern border–or the one under the PDA identifying as emergencies the problems of meat packers whose workforce was affected by COVID-19.
But this is different. Climate change is a legitimate emergency. We anticipate more executive activity on that front soon–hopefully, very soon.