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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden will sign new executive actions today that provide the clearest signs yet of his climate plans — elevating the issue to a national security priority and kicking off an intense battle with the oil industry.

Driving the news: One move will freeze issuance of new oil-and-gas leases on public lands and waters "to the extent possible," per a White House summary.

  • The order does not restrict tribal lands, the White House said.
  • Other expected moves will look to stitch climate and environmental justice into the fabric of decision-making across the government.

Some of the new measures include...

  • Setting a target of conserving 30% of the nation's lands and oceans by 2030.
  • Scheduling an April 22 (Earth Day) summit with world leaders aimed at toughening emissions-cutting efforts.
  • Elevating climate's role in foreign and security policy, such as requesting a national intelligence estimate on the security implications of climate change.
  • Creating a new task force of 21 agencies and departments to "enable a whole-of-government" approach to climate.
  • Directing agencies to "coordinate investments and other efforts to assist coal, oil and natural gas, and power plant communities."
  • Requiring agencies to procure carbon-free power and zero-emissions vehicles.
  • Taking steps to address the higher pollution exposure among the poor and communities of color. This includes a "Justice40 Initiative" aimed at "delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities."

Why it matters: The freeze on new oil leases marks a quick and tangible step to limit options for future production as Biden looks to speed the nation's move away from fossil fuels.

  • The other moves will put a wide swath of government to work in the service of his climate agenda but, like many executive orders, are more akin to firing a starting gun.

Yes, but: Federal lands and waters are less important to the domestic supply picture than they were before the fracking boom that's centered largely on private onshore holdings.

  • Still, they're quite significant — the American Petroleum Institute estimates that federal areas account for 22% of U.S. oil production and 12% of natural gas output.
  • It's also worth noting that a leasing freeze won't have an immediate effect on production. Plus, multiple companies with public lands exposure have stockpiles of drilling permits.

What they're saying: Oil industry groups have been aggressively pushing back against the leasing plan, arguing it will ultimately cost jobs and imperil energy security.

  • “Restricting development on federal lands and waters is nothing more than an 'import more oil' policy,"API president Mike Sommers said in a statement.

The other side: Environmental groups cheered the expected leasing freeze. “The climate and wildlife extinction crises demand this kind of bold, urgent action,” Kierán Suckling, executive director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

  • And the White House calls the overall orders a way to boost jobs in low-carbon energy and infrastructure sectors.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

GM plans to end sales of gasoline powered cars by 2035

GM CEO Mary Barra at the GM Orion Assembly Plant plant for electric and self-driving vehicles in Michigan. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

General Motors is setting a worldwide target to end sales of gasoline and diesel powered cars, pickups and SUVs by 2035, the automaker said Thursday.

Why it matters: GM's plan marks one of the auto industry's most aggressive steps to transform their portfolio to electric models that currently represent a tiny fraction of overall sales.

59 mins ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to accept the recommendation.

DHS temporarily suspends use of horse patrol in Del Rio

U.S. Border Patrol agents watch as Haitian immigrant families cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of horse patrol in Del Rio, Texas a DHS spokesperson confirmed.

Why it matters: The suspension comes after images showing border patrol agents whipping at and charging their horses at migrants surfaced earlier in the week, prompting widespread criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.