On Earth Day 2021, during a worldwide summit on climate change, President Biden announced a bold new climate change goal for the United States: cut greenhouse emissions in the United States by 50% by 2030, based on 2005 emission levels. Cutting emissions in half globally by 2030 is seen as necessary if the world is to meet U.N. goals to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Making the announcement within the president’s first 100 days of office is one of the many moves the Biden Administration is making on climate change, the environment and clean energy, and it’s the focus of the next Ulteig Energy & Infrastructure Podcast.
In this latest episode, host Aaron Lauinger, Ulteig’s Market Director-Transportation and Water, is joined by Jen Turnbow, Associate Director, Transportation at Ulteig, and Clayton Derby. Turnbow has more than 20 years of environmental and transportation experience under her belt and specializes in running large, complex projects with high stakeholder involvement. Derby serves as the Chief Services Officer for WEST, for which he ensures the quality of the company’s products and services, customer loyalty, satisfaction and retention; and the development of new business. He also is an active project manager and wildlife biologist with more than 20 years of experience.
During their robust, 30-minute conversation, the panelists touch on a number of issues of interest to energy and infrastructure engineers who specialize in transportation, power, renewables and water. Highlights include:
Applying Environmental Considerations to Infrastructure – In today’s rapidly changing world, Turnbow stresses the need to find solutions that are best for all – for the environment, for people and for our country. Derby stresses that while he and Turnbow are typically not decision-makers, they’re aware of their role in helping their clients minimize negative impacts on the environment when an organization is building or maintaining infrastructure.
Changes in Environmental Policies – All three panelists acknowledge that we should expect a great deal of change coming within the coming weeks, months and years under a new administration, but, as Turnbow notes, this is not uncommon with a new presidential administration. However, what’s different this time is the stark changes between the previous administration and the new administration. Derby says to watch two key laws – the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. “There have been a lot of re-interpretations of these laws by new administrations. In the coming years, we’ll see an interpretation of these laws through the lens of social justice.”
Change in Focus – Where the Trump administration put its focus and energy on supporting oil, gas and coal, the Biden administration is focusing on renewables, water and climate change. “We’re watching to see what the new administration’s approach to federal lands will be. For example, they’ve already limited oil and gas exploration on federal lands. Could we see the development of renewables instead, or will they discourage any type of development on federal lands,” said Derby.
30 x 30 Initiative – Will the Biden Administration commit to conserving at least 30% of U.S. land and ocean by 2030 as part of an international push for conservation aiming to protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change impacts? Or, will the administration promote the building of more transmission lines along interstate corridors to enhance the nation’s electrical grid? Both initiatives pose significant challenges for the country and both require national leadership.
Environmental Racism – The panelists also discussed environmental racism and how far the new administration will go toward making it a priority. “The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires addressing environmental justice in new projects,” said Turnbow. Derby added, “Environmental justice will become more prominent in future infrastructure process. The industry needs to be prepare to hear from more voices who want a say on the development of new infrastructure.”
Think Local – Both Turnbow and Derby stressed the importance of working with local field offices of the federal government when developing new infrastructure projects. “Federal regulations can be interpreted differently from one area to the next,” said Derby, “that’s why it’s critical to build trust with local officials to understand how local communities, land owners, and local agencies see the future of their lands and waters.”
For more insights about what you can expect from Biden Administration, listen to the latest episode of the Ulteig Energy & Infrastructure Podcast,
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The Ulteig Energy & Infrastructure Podcast features in-depth interviews with industry leaders and experts on all aspects about the development, design and construction of power, renewables, transportation and water infrastructure.