Key environmental groups endorse Biden despite approval of fossil fuel projects

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the League of Conservation Voters annual dinner in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2023. 
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Four of the country’s largest environmental groups have endorsed President Joe Biden‘s re-election bid despite disapproval from climate activists over his administration’s support of fossil fuel plans, including the approval of an oil drilling project in Alaska and a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia.

The League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and NextGen America issued the unprecedented joint endorsement of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday night during the League’s annual dinner event in Washington, DC.

Speakers for the groups applauded the Biden administration’s climate change agenda, including the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and its $375 billion for clean energy and electric vehicles, the biggest climate bill ever in U.S. history. The law is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to one billion tons by 2030.

Some smaller climate groups, however, are withholding their support and condemning the president for breaking his early campaign promise to end all oil and gas drilling on federal lands. The Biden administration has since mandated the sale of offshore drilling leases, sped up completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline as part of a debt limit bill and approved a controversial Alaska drilling project called Willow.

Endorsing groups said that while they’ll continue to hold the administration accountable for fossil fuel projects, having Biden for a second term is critical for progress on other climate initiatives.

Climate activists gather to protest with demanding President Biden stop the Willow Project by unfurling a banner on the Lafayette Square in front of the White House on January 10, 2023 in Washington D.C., United States.
Celal Gunes | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Group members emphasized that the Biden White House has done more to address the climate crisis and environmental injustice than any administration in U.S. history, and warned the alternative could be a Republican who would approve additional fossil fuel plans and jeopardize the country’s climate progress.

“President Biden has acted courageously during a critical inflection point in the climate fight,” said Ben Jealous, national executive director of the Sierra Club. “No other administration has done more to move us forward. The stakes could not be higher and the choice could not be more clear.”

While Biden has enacted an aggressive climate agenda, he’s also taken steps to boost fossil fuel production in order to placate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Republicans who argue the White House climate agenda is endangering U.S. energy security.

During the dinner, Biden touted his administration’s climate record, adding that while there are a lot of threats facing “our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” climate change “is the only truly existential threat.”

“If we don’t meet the requirements that we’re looking at, we’re in real trouble,” the president warned the audience. “Together, we’ve made a lot of progress so far, but we’ve got to finish the job.”

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the League of Conservation Voters annual dinner in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2023. 
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Biden has vowed to slash the country’s emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. His federal agencies have proposed tougher limits on pollution from automobiles, trucks and power plants, marking the nation’s most ambitious climate regulations to date that would substantially curb emissions.

Early in office, Biden rejoined the Paris climate agreement, the landmark nonbinding accord among nations to reduce their carbon emissions, and created the first-ever National Climate Task Force to implement a “whole of government” approach to mitigating climate change. His administration also vowed to deliver at least 40% of the benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.

“President Biden’s climate leadership has been nothing short of historic,” Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the NRDC Action Fund, said in a statement. “His policies are already driving a heartland manufacturing renaissance with clean energy at its core, and he has worked to advance environmental justice.”

Former president Donald Trump, the front-runner in the 2024 Republican primary field, withdrew the U.S. from the Paris accord and weakened a slew of environmental regulations designed to reduce emissions and protect the country’s air, land and water.

The four endorsing groups collectively represent millions of members and activists in every state across the country, with campaigns that have invested millions of dollars on previous elections.