First Things to Fix

Early actions the Biden administration can take to restore critical environmental protections
Released by: Environment America Research & Policy Center

America is a nation of awe-inspiring natural landscapes. From the Grand Canyon to the Everglades. From Acadia to the California Redwoods. Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. For good reason, Americans have long treasured our great outdoor spaces.

But in recent years, America’s environment has been at risk. Air pollution has been on the rise.[i] Many of our bodies of water are at risk of pollution from chemical and oil storage facilities, fertilizers, stormwater runoff, sewage systems, and more.[ii] As greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise, so have the impacts of global warming, from increased wildfires and hurricanes to heat-related illness.[iii]

And while the U.S. remains a sharply divided country, Americans broadly agree: the government should be doing more to protect the environment.[iv]

In the Biden administration’s early days, it is critical that we take swift action to clean up our environment and address the climate crisis. There are several important environmental policies that can be set in motion on day one that will protect our natural landscapes and give Americans cleaner air, cleaner water and a more livable climate. Many of these are policies that Americans already worked hard to put in place, but which, over the past four years, the Trump administration rolled back or weakened. At a minimum, the Biden administration should restore these commonsense solutions to protect our land, air, water and climate.

By taking a strategic approach toward implementing these environmental protections in the early days, the new administration can use this as a moment to bridge the divide among Americans and pursue an agenda that enjoys broad support among the public.

With these issues in mind, the Biden administration should set a bold but popular early agenda in the areas of climate, clean water, clean air, conservation and energy. The first five things to fix on day one are:

  1. Climate: Rejoin the Paris Agreement
  2. Clean Water: Set in motion a repeal of the Dirty Water Rule
  3. Clean Air:  Strengthen federal fuel economy and emissions standards for vehicles and reaffirm California’s authority to set stronger vehicle emissions standards
  4. Conservation: Withdraw the Trump draft 5-year plan on offshore drilling
  5. Clean Energy: Restore smart energy efficiency policy

These policies can be implemented or set in motion through executive action on day one and will go a long way toward securing a greener, healthier America. 

The agenda for the rest of the first 100 days should then be focused on undoing the many harmful Trump administration rollbacks of impactful and popular environmental policies. This report includes a list of fifteen additional policies that the Biden administration should prioritize.


[i] Karen, Clay and Nicholas Miller, “Recent Increases in Air Pollution: Evidence and Implications for Mortality,” National Bureau of Economic Research, October 2019,

[ii] Melissa Denchak , “Water Pollution: Everything You Need to Know,” NRDC, May 18, 2018, available at

[iii] NASA, “The Effects of Climate Change,” accessed at on Nov. 8, 2020.

[iv] Frank Newport, “Americans Want Government to Do More on Environment,” Gallop News, March 29. 2018,