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Biden's 'Clean Energy' Plans Face Several Hurdles

A pumpjack in Colorado, which ranks No. 6 in the country in proved natural gas reserves, and No. 7 in crude oil reserves.
Colorado State Land Board
A pumpjack in Colorado, which ranks No. 6 in the country in proved natural gas reserves, and No. 7 in crude oil reserves.

President-elect Joe Biden wants to move the U.S. away from fossil fuel development, but he will face some challenges.

Biden’s plans include incentivizing renewable energy, limiting methane pollution and stopping oil and gas development on public lands. However, if the GOP maintains its majority in the Senate, that could prove a formidable obstacle. 

Biden could do some of this on his own through executive actions, but those would likely face lawsuits, and possibly go before federal judges appointed by President Donald Trump. 

“I think it’s safe to say that no matter what the government does, there will be lawsuits,” said Ellie Dawson, a counsel with international law firm Crowell & Moring. 

Dawson has experience with federal cases, and says legal battles don’t stop when a different party controls the White House. 

“No matter who is president, there is no shortage of suing the federal government, whether it be by the environmental groups that don’t want to see the actions come to pass that the administration has planned, or the energy developers that want more from the government than it’s willing to give,” she said. 

Beyond lawsuits, she says Biden will have to be careful when writing laws to protect vulnerable animals through the Endangered Species Act or limit production because alternative energy also requires mined resources.

“So with respect to tying up public land,” she said, “he will also need to consider the renewable energy goals that he has.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Madelyn Beck is Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. She's from Montana but has reported everywhere from North Dakota to Alaska to Washington, D.C. Her last few positions included covering energy resources in Wyoming and reporting on agriculture/rural life issues in Illinois.