Biden to survey California fire damage as he urges action on climate change

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(NEW YORK) — President Joe Biden on Monday was making his first visit to the West Coast as president, with plans to survey wildfire damage and push for action on combatting climate change.

Biden planned to first stop in Boise, Idaho, to visit the National Interagency Fire Center — which coordinates the federal government’s response to wildfires — before traveling to the Sacramento, Calif., area to view the impact of the Caldor Fire and receive a briefing from local officials.

The president has used recent natural disasters to show the urgency of climate change and its deadly effects on the American people, pitching his massive spending plan as a way to rebuild infrastructure in a greener, cleaner, more resilient manner.

“From the Yellowstone fire to today, all’s changed, in a drastic drastic way,” Biden said while meeting with officials in Boise, referring to 1988 fires that at the time prompted the largest-ever firefighting response in U.S. history. “It’s changed, It’s not going back. It’s not going back.”

Earlier this month, the president visited Louisiana, New Jersey and New York to see the impact of Hurricane Ida and its remnants.

The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress hope to pass two major bills by the end of the month that, together, would make hundreds of billions of dollars available for developing clean energy, rebuilding physical infrastructure to make it withstand more extreme weather events, and electrifying the federal fleet of vehicles.

“My message to you is, when we build back, we have to build back better,” Biden said, using a slogan he has used to describe his agenda. “It’s not a Democrat thing, it’s not a Republican thing. It’s a weather thing. It’s a reality.”

The larger bill — the price tag and contents of which have been subject to Democratic infighting — would devote $135 billion to preventing wildfires, dealing with droughts, and promoting clean energy in rural communities, among other things.

While in Idaho, Biden toured the fire center and promoted his administration’s use of the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that allows the president to direct civilian businesses to help meet orders for products necessary for the national defense, to spur the production of firehoses.

The use of the act enabled an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit, which is the main supplier of the U.S. Forest Service’s firehoses, to produce 415 miles of fire hose, according to a person familiar with Biden’s remarks.

Biden said he was able to “restart production… bringing a lot of people back to work, delivering 21,920 new feet of firehose at the frontlines.”

After an aerial tour of the Caldor Fire’s impact on El Dorado County, Calif., Biden plans to deliver remarks on his administration’s response to recent wildfires and how his spending proposals “will strengthen our nation’s resilience to climate change and extreme weather events,” according to the White House.

He then plans to travel to Long Beach, Calif., to speak at a Monday evening campaign rally with Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat facing a recall election in which voting ends Tuesday.

“Today, the president’s showing how nature will take its course if we don’t act and we don’t start investing,” White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy said in an interview with CNN on Monday.

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