with Paulina Firozi

Joe Biden has won the backing of one of the nation’s largest, oldest and most influential environmental organizations — the Sierra Club.

Ramón Cruz, the Oakland-based green group’s president, said in a statement that the urgent need to curb climate change in the next decade is compelling the Sierra Club to “do everything in our power to elect Joe Biden.”

“The rising global temperature will not wait,” he added. “The melting glaciers and ice caps will not wait. Climate and social progress cannot wait.”

The endorsement was widely expected, but still shows how Biden has consolidated environmentalists' support.

Biden beat out Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other candidates in the Democratic primary who put more emphasis on reining in rising temperatures.

But after locking down the nomination in the spring, Biden and his campaign spent months courting environmental activists and union officials to craft a revised climate plan.

The resulting $2 trillion proposal, released last month, featured more aggressive goals — including eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 2035.

In a statement, Biden said that “[i]t is an honor to have earned their support and to fight alongside their millions of members who will work to defeat Donald Trump.”

The endorsement serves as another repudiation of President Trump by environmentalists. In his own statement, Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's executive director, said that “[n]o president has been worse for our environment or our nation’s public health” than the current one.

Biden has also won the endorsement of other mainstream environmental groups, including the political arms of the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

And although the influential, youth-led Sunrise Movement is not formally endorsing Biden, it is still urging its voters to cast their ballots with the Democrat in November.

There was no chance the Sierra Club was going to endorse President Trump.

The president has repeatedly rejected the scientific consensus that humans are warming the planet, and the 128-year-old green group opposed nearly every one of his environmental policies. The Sierra Club filed more than 250 cases against his administration.

The group even played a role forcing out one of Trump’s most controversial Cabinet members, Scott Pruitt, who sought to roll back numerous pollution regulations as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was through public-records requests and litigation that the Sierra Club compelled the EPA to cough up thousands of records on Pruitt, including emails showing him using his official position to try to line up a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife.

That and other ethical lapses contributed to Pruitt’s resignation in 2018.

The endorsement comes as the Sierra Club and other green groups are going through their own reckoning on race.

In recognition of nationwide protests against racial injustice, the Sierra Club is reexamining the legacy of its founder, John Muir, a naturalist regarded as the “patron saint of the American wilderness” who was also a racist known to make derogatory comments about African Americans and Native Americans.

“It’s time to take down some of our own monuments, starting with some truth-telling about the Sierra Club’s early history,” Brune wrote in a blog post last month.

Sierra Club promised to shift $5 million to reduce pay inequities and ensure that a majority of its top-level leadership is made up of people of color.

On Monday, Brune called Biden’s climate plan a “bold vision” for “investing in communities that for too long have been left behind.”

Biden’s climate plan includes several environmental justice provisions, including a commitment to spend 40 percent of the money earmarked for clean energy in historically disadvantaged areas.

In the high-dollar world of elections, the Sierra Club is planning to spend a relatively small amount.

It is expecting to spend $16 million on 2020 races, according to spokeswoman Gabby Brown.

But it is still more than double the $6.5 million the group spent on the 2018 midterm elections and the $3 million it spent on races in 2016, when the Sierra Club endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Matt Gravatt, director of the Sierra Club’s political committee, said the endorsement’s real value is in mobilizing its more than 3.8 million members and supporters to not only go to the polls in November but also to volunteer for the Biden campaign and participate in phone and texting banks the organization is planning to run.

“Our strength is in our members and our supporters,” Gravatt said.

Climate change emerged as a top-tier issue during the Democratic primary, though the coronavirus pandemic has eclipsed it and other topics.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in May, 33 percent of registered voters said climate change was a “very important” issue — down 10 percentage points from a similar nationwide survey in February.

Power plays

Biden said he’d halt the Pebble Mine project if elected. 

The former vice president said he would stop the controversial gold and copper mine from being built in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, noting that it’s home to a salmon fishery that’s a critical economic resource, the Anchorage Daily News reports

“It is no place for a mine,” Biden said in a statement. “The Obama-Biden Administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today.” Biden added that “Alaskan culture, traditions, and jobs are on the line… As president, I will do what President Trump has failed to do: listen to the scientists and experts to protect Bristol Bay — and all it offers to Alaska, our country, and the world.” 

The project has gained renewed attention after Donald Trump Jr. tweeted his opposition to it, which prompted the president to say he would  “listen to both sides” on the issue. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month released a final environmental review of the project, potentially setting the stage for the agency to issue a key permit for construction as early as this month. The agency could also reject the permit, or issue one with restrictions,” the Anchorage Daily News adds. 

Biden also said late last week that he would oppose another controversial mining project, this one in the Grand Canyon region. 

In a statement to the Arizona Republic, he said he would oppose uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. 

Under former president Barack Obama, about 1 million acres of public lands near the canyon were closed to new mining claims, per the Arizona Republic. But mining interests have put pressure on the Trump administration to reopen that land to extraction.

“The Grand Canyon is first among the landmarks of our nation — holy to the Tribes who preserve it and call it home, and sacred to all Americans,” Biden said. “This national treasure attracts millions of visitors each year, supporting thousands of jobs for Arizonans and contributing more than $1 billion to the state economy.”

The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to withdraw Obama-era regulations for methane-gas emissions. 

The new rules the agency is preparing to adopt would end requirements that oil and gas producers have operations in place to detect methane leaks, the Wall Street Journal reports. The new rules would also ease mandates for checking for leaks and other pollutants for some facilities. Methane, which makes up a tenth of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, is about 25 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. 

“The rule changes will apply to wells drilled since 2016 and going forward, and remove the largest pipelines, storage sites and other parts of the transmission system from EPA oversight of smog and greenhouse-gas emissions,” the Journal reports. “…The new rules, expected to be signed and issued this week, adopt most of the core elements of two proposals from 2018 and 2019. Agency officials are fulfilling a directive by President Trump to ease regulations on U.S. energy producers, and have said the rules being eliminated are duplicative of other federal and state rules.”

The EPA sent a final draft of the rule change to the White House on Friday, the Journal reports, and is awaiting a final approval from the Office of Management and Budget. 

The EPA has approved a new chemical, an oil found in cedar trees and grapefruit, to be used to repel ticks and mosquitoes. 

The chemical, nootkatone, is considered nontoxic to humans and other mammals, birds, fish and bees and is already used by the food and perfume industries, the New York Times reports.

“If you drink Fresca or Squirt, you’ve drunk nootkatone,” Ben Beard, deputy director of the division of vector-borne diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Times. 

“Diseases caused by the bites of ticks, mosquitoes and fleas have tripled in the United States in the last 15 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a 2018 report,” per the report. “They include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever from ticks; West Nile, dengue, Zika and chikungunya from mosquitoes; and plague from fleas…. The chemical repels mosquitoes, ticks, bedbugs and fleas — and, in high concentrations, kills them, according to the C.D.C.” 

Trump's latest orders would shift funding from the Federal Emergency Management Ageny to pay for unemployment benefits. 

The president signed a number of executive actions over the weekend in an effort to sidestep Congress as he pushes for limiting evictions, deferring student loan payments and payroll taxes and providing Americans with temporary unemployment benefits. 

“In the case of the unemployment benefit, the administration is planning to tap unspent disaster relief funds maintained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and supply them to states that agree to a 25 percent match -- although administration officials have suggested that the matching requirement could be waived,” Erica Werner, Tony Romm and Jeff Stein report

Those funds are not likely to last more than two months. Trump’s move comes as FEMA is facing an above-average hurricane season. 

Thermometer

Hurricane Isaias is expected to cost insurance companies nearly $4 billion for damages in the United States. 

“Isaias brought the highest wind speeds since Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and resulted in low levels of wind damage in more than a dozen states, according to Karen Clark. Insurers, which are dealing with losses from the coronavirus pandemic, also are preparing for what’s expected to be the worst hurricane season since 2005, when Katrina hit the U.S.,” Bloomberg News reports.

Meanwhile, there’s a new tropical disturbance moving through the Atlantic. 

Another system could be forming, and could fuel activity in less than two weeks, Matthew Cappucci reports. The National Hurricane Center said it has 60 percent odds of becoming a tropical depression or storm, which if named, would be dubbed “Josephine.” 

“The exceptionally busy 2020 season has also featured the earliest C, E, F, G, H and I storms on record,” Cappucci adds. “If this system does not develop, in one to two weeks a much more favorable environment for robust tropical development looks likely to take place.”

Oil check

Marathon Petroleum is set to claim a $1.1 billion tax refund, thanks to a provision in the coronavirus stimulus package that passed in March.

The provision is benefiting a wide range of industries, but particularly benefiting oil companies that saw record profits in 2018 before taking a hit this year, Bloomberg News reports.

“That measure included a tax provision that allows companies to immediately deduct net operating losses and apply them to previous returns for five years from 2018, 2019 and 2020 –  instead of only applying those deductions to future years,” per the report. “The benefit is supercharged because deductions taken before the 2017 tax overhaul can be claimed at the 35% corporate tax rate instead of the current 21%.” 

A $16 billion project plans to capture solar power in Australia and transmit it to Singapore.

It would transmit the power via a cable probably between five- and 12-inches wide across 2,800 miles of sea floor, A. Odysseus Patrick reports for The Post. 

“The Australia-ASEAN Power Link, which is part-owned by two Australian billionaires and was endorsed last month by the Australian government, may be the most ambitious renewable energy project underway anywhere,” Patrick writes. “And it could mark a new chapter in the history of energy: the intercontinental movement of green power.” 

The project, set to begin operating in 2027, would “combine the world’s largest solar farm, the largest battery and longest submarine electricity cable. It would produce three gigawatts of power, the equivalent of 9 million rooftop solar panels.” 

A major gas explosion in Baltimore left at least one person dead and others injured, the force of the blast razing numerous homes.

A spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said a cause of the explosion had not yet been determined but the company plans to inspect its equipment at the explosion site once the area is safe, The Post’s Emily Davies, Katie Mettler and Michael E. Miller report.

“Crews were still on scene sifting through the rubble six hours after the blast in what Baltimore City Fire Commander Roman Clark called a ‘rescue mission.’ Fire officials did not detail how many people were unaccounted for after the blast or say how many people they were still searching for as of Monday afternoon,” they write. “…As rescue operations stretched into Monday afternoon, neighbors sat in their front yards while people walked past offering to board up their windows. Caution tape was pulled across the entrances to the backyards directly behind the blast and pieces of clothing hung from trees, the smell of gas in the air.”