with Paulina Firozi

Joe Biden further consolidated the support of mainstream environmentalists by scoring the endorsement of a major green group on Wednesday.

The political arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council announced that it is backing the former vice president in his bid to beat President Trump.

Citing Biden's four decades working in Washington, the group's chair Gina McCarthy wrote in a blog post that the nation"need a leader who can rebuild us from the crises we are reeling from today, and make us stronger and more resilient against the demands of the next. That person is Joe Biden.” 

McCarthy served as President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency chief for four years.

Biden weathered criticism from the left during the primary for his plans to tackle climate change.

The nod from the group’s campaigning apparatus, NRDC Action Fund, comes after Biden made gestures to win over environmentalists since locking down the nomination. Since posting big wins on Super Tuesday in March, Biden has also locked down support from the political arms of the League of Conservation Voters and the National Wildlife Federation, as well as an endorsement on Earth Day from former vice president Al Gore. 

His campaign put several of Sanders’s climate advisers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), on a climate task force meant to bridge the divide between Democrats on climate change. McCarthy also serves on that committee. And Biden said he would revoke the Trump administration’s permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, most likely vaulting the project to a campaign issue.

But the former vice president may still have a hard time winning over younger voters who preferred Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and worry that Biden’s climate plan does not do enough to prevent a devastating rise in temperatures this century.

The NRDC's main influence will come from marshaling environmental diehards.

Its endorsement is not a surprise: It has sued the Trump administration more than 100 times over its environmental rollbacks. 

The NRDC Action Fund expects to spend $7 million to $8 million on the 2020 election — a relatively small amount in the big-dollar world of federal elections.

But it will recruit its roughly 75,000 members to volunteer for campaigns and encourage about 1 million more on its email lists to vote.

And together with two other groups focused on climate issues, the League of Conservation Voters and NextGen America, the NRDC Action Fund’s political action committee supports the GiveGreen initiative to direct donors’ money to the campaigns of environmentally friendly candidates.

The initiative has already raised $15 million for candidates in the 2020 election cycle, beating its 2016 total of $8 million and on track to surpass its 2018 sum of $23 million.

While long a lobbying presence on Capitol Hill, the environmental group only recently began endorsing presidential candidates. The NRDC Action Fund issued its first presidential endorsement in 2016, when it backed Hillary Clinton.

Climate change may finally be a top-tier issue in a presidential race.

Democratic primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada ranked it second only to health care in exit polling after years of being an election afterthought. 

But it is unclear whether the issue will retain its potency as the country is gripped by high unemployment, protests over police brutality and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Biden has said climate change and the pandemic are both areas where President Trump has rejected the advice of experts. “Our recent response to climate change has been a lot like our response to the pandemic,” he said at a fundraiser in April.

The pandemic is forcing campaigners to rethink their usual get-out-the-vote efforts, which for the NRDC Action Fund will mean more peer-to-peer texting than door-to-door knocking this year.

“In the covid-19 era, more of that is shifting online, and we’re trying to figure that out,” said Kevin Curtis, executive director of the NRDC Action Fund.

Power plays

Trump is planning a major fireworks display at Mount Rushmore on July 3. There are numerous environmental and safety risks. 

The National Park Service has had a decade-long ban on pyrotechnics at Mount Rushmore because of concerns of sparking wildfires. The destination is surrounded by 1,200 acres of forested lands. 

“Trump has wanted to stage fireworks at the national memorial in South Dakota’s Black Hills since 2018,” Juliet Eilperin, Darryl Fears and Josh Dawsey report. “But the idea was scuttled or delayed by a number of his advisers, these individuals said.”

A spokesman for South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) told The Post in an email that the NPS had conducted a controlled burn earlier this month to reduce wildfire-fueling brush, and that the agency determined there was no environmental threat. A senior Interior Department official also added the department prepared firefighting resources at the site.

There’s also concern about the ongoing pandemic. “Neither federal nor state officials have imposed social distancing requirements as part of the gathering,” Eilperin, Fears and Dawsey report. “…One senior Interior official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the department is following state health guidelines and is taking steps to reflect recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes signs throughout the park urging visitors to wear a cloth face covering when it is impossible to keep six feet away from others, and providing face coverings for all of its employees.”

The White House told the Agriculture Department to extend farmer bailout funds to the lobster industry. 

“The order, signed by President Trump on Wednesday, comes weeks after a group of lobster fishermen in Maine asked the president for help and as the administration’s trade agenda is increasingly under strain amid heightened tensions with China,” Jeff Stein and Rachel Siegel report. “It was a relatively minor action, though, given the mounting levels of concern about the broader economy and the rapid increase in coronavirus cases around the country.” 

The $30 billion bailout program the administration created to help farmers weather the trade war has been popular with some, but has also faced criticism as extended bailouts have gone largely to states where Trump wants to secure political support. Maine, for example, could be a swing state amid Trump’s reelection bid, Stein and Siegel write.

Minnesota is suing ExxonMobil, the Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute for deceiving consumers about climate change. 

Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the consumer fraud lawsuit, an effort that joins dozens of cities, counties and states that have sued Exxon and other fossil fuel companies in recent years. But Minnesota’s is the first suit to go after API and the Koch Industries, according to the Center for Climate Integrity. 

The lawsuit accuses the oil firms and the trade group of consumer fraud and of deceptive trade practices. It alleges the defendants made misleading statements meant to “defraud consumers and the general public, including consumers and the public in Minnesota, about climate change and the role of fossil-fuel products in climate change,” according to the suit. 

The complaint asks that the companies use the profits they “wrongfully obtained” to help the state pay for climate consequences and calls for the companies to give up their profits “made as a result of their unlawful conduct” and “fund a corrective public education campaign in Minnesota relating to the issue of climate change, administered and controlled by an independent third party.”

The Trump administration has allowed the cash-strapped Chesapeake Energy Corp. to halt production on more than 100 federal drilling leases. 

The company was allowed to do so without losing ownership of the assets, Reuters reports. The shale gas driller is expected to become the biggest oil and gas firm to go bankrupt amid the pandemic's economic fallout.

“Companies typically are required to forfeit their leases if they stop working on them,” per the report. “The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees drilling on federal lands, has been approving individual requests for lease suspensions and royalty reductions to help companies weather low energy prices. While suspensions allow companies to stop producing without losing their leases, companies are still required to make rent payments.”

Global warming watch

Ford says it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

The car manufacturer says it will focus on emissions from the vehicles it sells, emissions from factories and emissions from suppliers to reduce its pollution, the Verge reports. That target would align the company's efforts with targets in the Paris climate deal.

“The company has set a goal of completely powering all its manufacturing plants with locally-sourced renewable energy by 2035,” per the report. “Limiting its contribution to the climate crisis will be a tall order for a business that primarily makes gas-guzzling vehicles. Three quarters of the planet-heating CO2 emissions Ford is responsible for come from consumers driving its cars. The vehicles it sells create 135 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to a sustainability report the company released today. That’s almost as much as 35 coal-fired power plants would produce in one year.'

Coronavirus fallout

The Interior Department is reopening its headquarters. 

The building will have many changes, including notices that urge employees to follow CDC guidance, that inform people of room occupancy and encourage them to wear masks and keep a social distance, E&E News reports. There will be rearranged seats and additional sanitizing protocols. 

The start of reopening comes almost exactly three months after the COVID-19 pandemic drove Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to direct any of Interior's 70,000 employees ‘not performing or supporting mission essential functions or performing mission critical functions’ to telework,” per the report.

Numerous major companies were looking to use more recycled plastic in their drink bottles. Then a pandemic hit. 

The pandemic not only led to a halt in some recycling programs, which meant lowered supplies of the plastic that drinks bottles are made from, the crash in oil prices means it has been less expensive to make new plastic than recycled plastic. 

That means many companies – Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Danone, for example – have missed targets for sustainability efforts that include plastic bottles made of recycled materials, the Wall Street Journal reports

“Coca-Cola missed a self-imposed May deadline to use 50% recycled plastic in all its drinks bottles in the U.K., while Danone failed to hit an April target for its Volvic bottles sold in Germany to be made entirely from recycled plastic. Danone also missed similar targets in the U.K. and France,” per the report. “…The pandemic is exacerbating what was already a tricky problem for drinks companies: getting enough clean, food-grade used plastic to make new bottles. Despite being easily recyclable, less than a third of PET bottles sold are collected for recycling in the U.S. and just 4% are used to make new drinks bottles, according to the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit.” 

In other news

Bayer will pay up to $10.9 billion to settle more than tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging the herbicide Roundup causes cancer. 

“Investors have long been waiting for a settlement to bring clarity over how much the litigation will cost Bayer, following its 2018 purchase of U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto Co,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The deal brought the company thousands of Roundup-related lawsuits. Three jury-trial losses tanked shares and sparked a revolt among shareholders angry at Bayer’s management for plunging the company into one of the worst crises in its history with the $63 billion Monsanto acquisition.”

Notably, Roundup products will still be on shelves and won't have a cancer warning label, which “leaves the company exposed to future lawsuits. It creates a unique legal conundrum for the company over how best to guard itself against potential future litigation.”

A plume of dust from the Sahara Desert is moving toward the Gulf Coast. 

It is set to move ashore in Texas and Louisiana in coming days and is “predicted to cause a deterioration in air quality and turn the sky a milky white, and its impacts won’t be limited to the coast,” Andrew Freedman and Matthew Cappucci report. “It may even lead to a rare phenomenon of brown rain in some locations while it sweeps across parts of the United States, as water droplets within showers and thunderstorms mingle with the dust particles.”