After calling for unity in his inaugural address, President Joe Biden quickly turned around and signed a flurry of executive orders. As the new president of the United States, Biden quickly reversed many of Trump’s policies. While all 17 of Biden’s Day One executive actions are consequential, here are four that will impact the State of Texas.
Rejoin Paris Climate Accord
The Paris climate accord is an international agreement that pledges to reduce carbon emissions. Although the agreement is not legally binding, if the United States fulfills its commitments under the accord by enacting stricter environmental regulations, it could have a serious impact on Texas’ economic growth. Federal restrictions intended to lower carbon emissions greatly affect the oil and gas industry. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it is a major component of the Texas economy:
Texas is the top U.S. producer of both crude oil and natural gas. In 2019, the state accounted for 41% of the nation’s crude oil production and 25% of its marketed natural gas production.
In 2017, the National Economic Research Associates predicted a dire economic future if the United States matched the carbon emissions standards in the Paris climate accord, saying, “Taking into account the loss in employment in other non-manufacturing sectors, the job-equivalents impact for the overall industrial sector could be about 1.1 million job-equivalents in 2025 and 6.5 million in 2040.”
In December, Sen. Ted Cruz penned a letter to President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging the administration to submit both the Paris climate accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal to the Senate. The then-Republican Senate would have voted on whether to ratify them as treaties, legally complicating incoming President Joe Biden’s plans to rejoin the pacts. However, the Trump administration did not send the treaties to the Senate before Biden was sworn into office, allowing him to rejoin the agreement.
End Additional Border Wall Construction
Illegal immigration is a serious issue in the State of Texas. According to the Migration Policy Institute, in 2018, the number of illegal immigrants in Texas totaled 1.7 million. Many conservatives argued that expanding the United States’ border wall would help curb the flood of illegal aliens entering the Lone Star State. In the 2015 Republican primary debates, Trump promised he would build 1,000 miles of fencing along the United States’ southern border. Although only 47 miles of entirely new fencing was built, 351 miles of fencing was added to reinforce parts of the border wall with decaying or minimal infrastructure. An additional 275 miles was still in the works before Biden’s inauguration, 229 of them in the State of Texas. The border wall funding was achieved largely through executive action, particularly through a national emergency declaration in 2019.
As Texas Scorecard reported, Trump recently visited the border town of Alamo, Texas, to tout the construction of the wall. However, much of that construction was just canceled. Because the funding wasn’t cemented by direct congressional appropriation, Biden was able to halt additional border wall construction through an executive order mere hours after becoming president.
Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline
As previously mentioned, oil is a big part of the Texas economy. As of January 2019, Texas’ oil refineries specifically accounted for 31 percent of the U.S’s refining capacity. The Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have connected oil from Canada to Texas’ refineries in Port Arthur, was a key innovation for the future of oil and gas. Supporters argued that it provided a safe, efficient method of transporting crude oil. The Heritage Foundation wrote that “Blocking Keystone XL isn’t going to stop the production of Canadian oil or prevent oil from reaching refiners in Texas and Louisiana. Instead, prohibiting the pipeline will create more inefficient and riskier methods of transporting crude.”
The Trump administration approved construction for the pipeline in the United States last year. While the project is nearly complete, President Biden revoked its permit.
Count Noncitizens in the Census
According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants account for one-sixth of Texas’ population. This high immigrant population has a major impact on redistricting. Every 10 years, the United States Census Bureau counts the entire population in each state. That information is later used to determine the number of congressional districts—and, thus, the number of electoral votes—each state has. It is hotly debated, however, whether redistricting should be based on the total number of people in each state or the total number of citizens in each state. The Center for Immigration Studies notes the cumulative impact of counting noncitizens when redistricting.
Of the 26 seats that will be lost, 24 are from states that voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Of states that will gain House seats because of immigration, 19 seats will go to the solidly Democratic states of California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Texas is the only solidly Republican state that gains, while Florida is a swing state.
The status of the Trump administration’s effort to exclude illegal aliens in the Census was uncertain after the Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge in December. With Joe Biden stepping into office before the Census was complete, however, all hopes of citizen-only redistricting were extinguished.