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A very busy Wednesday and Thursday in hearings on the Hill
Climate insurance, East Palestine, the FY2024 Budget
As Republicans are holding as few legislative working days in the House of Representatives as possible, the normally busy budgetary hearing season is even more compressed. Below the cherry blossoms is a detailed run-down of many budget hearings and their climate implications; but first, the other climate hearings of the week.
Wednesday, March 22
At 10 am Wednesday, Senate Budget chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) holds his latest climate hearing on the effect of fossil-fueled weather disasters on insurance markets. Witnesses range from the corporate (Eric Anderson, President, Aon) to the GOP-invited climate-science denier (Dr. Judith Curry). Wharton professor Benjamin Keys, has explored how sea level rise has already disrupted housing markets, and actuary Nancy Watkins specializes in climate resilience insurance planning.
At the same time, House Republicans hosts a roundtable hearing on federal real estate led by Freedom Caucus chair and climate denier Scott Perry (R-Pa.).
Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee chaired by Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) holds a hearing on improving rail safety in response to the East Palestine derailment, with Ohio’s senators and governor Mike DeWine (R), followed by a panel including Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw and National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy.
At 11:30 am, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) lead a press conference at the House Triangle to re-introduce the Environmental Justice for All Act, now named in honor of the bill’s recently passed co-sponsor, Rep. Donald McEachin. Many prominent environmental justice advocates will also be on hand.
Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 pm, Senate Judiciary holds a hearing on increasing U.S. refugee admissions and Senate Indian Affairs holds a roundtable hearing on Native priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill.
Thursday, March 23
At 10 am in the House: Natural Resources holds a legislative hearing on marine debris and delisting the gray wolf and grizzly bear; Agriculture holds a hearing on agricultural research programs; Armed Services looks at military operations and conflict in the Middle East and Africa; and Foreign Affairs grills Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the state of American diplomacy.
At 2 pm in the House: Natural Resources holds a legislative hearing on increasing logging and reducing endangered species protections in forests; Foreign Affairs hosts a panel of top U.S. diplomatic officials on U.S. policy towards the Pacific islands; and Science holds a legislative hearing on draft grid security, hydrogen, and pipelines legislation with mostly fossil-fuel-friendly scientists.
At 10 am the Senate: Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) chairs a hearing on cybersecurity for our energy infrastructure and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) convenes a hearing on U.S. trade policy with United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
Friday, March 24
At 9 am in the House: Ways and Means convenes their own hearing on U.S. trade policy with USTR Tai; and Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) hosts a Natural Resources subcommittee legislative hearing on leasing of lands under control of Indian tribes.
Hearings on the 2024 Budget
Congress is speedrunning through its hearings on the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget. There are dozens of these hearings this week, almost all on Wednesday and Thursday. President Joe Biden’s executive orders 13990, 14008, 14013 14027, 14030, 14052, 14057, 14072, and 14082 make climate action a mission of every part of the federal government, so in that sense Hill Heat should list every single budget hearing. Even with a tighter focus on the agencies and departments with a significant climate mission, there is an extraordinary amount of work on the Hill to cover. Let’s dive in.
Thursday at 10 am, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young testifies before the House Budget Committee, chaired by climate denier Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), on the president’s full $6.9 trillion budget, which includes $1.7 trillion in discretionary spending. Notably, the budget request would establish a billionaire wealth tax, eliminate $31 billion in oil and gas subsidies, and make a $52.2 billion investment in climate justice and clean energy priorities.
An all-female panel of Shalanda Young; Cecilia Rouse, Chair, Council of Economic Advisers; and Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury will then sit before House appropriators Thursday afternoon at 3 PM to discuss the budget.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
The Department of Defense takes the lion’s share of the discretionary budget, with an overall budget request of $842 billion. The DOD priority is raising military tensions with China—“the People’s Republic of China is our pacing challenge.” $9.1 billion of the budget is dedicated to the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, the DOD’s primary (though not exclusive) effort to “strengthen deterrence against the People’s Republic of China.” In comparison, $5.1 billion, or 0.6%, is directed to mitigating climate risk.
On Thursday morning, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, DOD Comptroller & CFO Michael J. McCord, and General Mark Milley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, appear before House appropriators, chaired by Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), to defend the overall defense budget request. Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. Northern Command (North America), and Gen. Laura Richardson, head of U.S. Southern Command (South and Central America), will testify about priorities and needs for fiscal 2024 before the Senate Armed Services Committee chaired by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
In the afternoon, Army installations and energy head Rachel Jacobson (an environmental lawyer) and Army deputy chief of staff for installations Lt. Gen Kevin Vereen testify before House appropriators led by John Carter (R-Texas) on the $1.47 billion budget request for Army facilities dealing with increasing climate disasters; and Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu and Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante testify before a House Armed Services subcommittee chaired by Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) on the $145 billion unclassified research and development budget request.
U.S DEPARTMENT OF STATE
The U.S. Department of State, with an overall budget request of $63.1 billion, includes $1.5 billion in spending explicitly for climate (though some also goes to promoting natural gas production and distribution), including:
$800 million for the Green Climate Fund
$425 million for Climate Investment Funds
$168.7 million for Global Environmental Facility
$27 million for Multilateral Development Bank Climate Trust Funds and Facilities
$18.5 million for Diplomatic Policy and Support, Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, including costs for the U.S. Center at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
$16 million for World Meteorological Organization
$6 million for Diplomatic Policy and Support, Energy Resources
$4.8 million for International Renewable Energy Agency
Secretary of State Antony Blinken appears before Senate appropriators, with subcommittee chair Chris Coons (D-Del.), on Wednesday morning, and House appropriators, chair Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), on Thursday afternoon.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
The Department of Energy is seeking a $52 billion budget. $40.8 billion is for the nuclear arsenal and nuclear and toxic waste. Among the remaining $11.2 billion is
$3.5 billion for the home weatherization assistance program;
$1 billion for fusion research;
$905 million for fossil-fuel, mining, and carbon-capture R&D
$650 million for ARPA-Energy research initiatives from ADEPT (Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology) to ULTIMATE (Ultrahigh Temperature Impervious Materials Advancing Turbine Efficiency);
$300 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs;
$297 million for the Office of Electricity;
$31 million for the new Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation;
$10 million for new Climate Resilience Centers
Secretary Jennifer Granholm appears before House appropriators led by Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) to discuss the DOE budget on Thursday morning at 10:30 am.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Aviation Administration (total budget, $19.8 billion): $4.2 million to enhance sustainability by reducing the agency’s environmental footprint at FAA-owned facilities and $11.2 million to support climate goals through the analysis and testing of alternative fuels
Federal Highway Administration ($60.8 billion): $1.8 billion for the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) program, to increase climate resiliency of infrastructure, and $60 million for the construction of sidewalks, bikeways, and pedestrian and bicycle trails
Federal Transit Administration ($17 billion): $2.9 billion in grants for the construction of major capital projects and new and expanded transit service, $14 billion in grants for public transportation systems
Federal Railroad Administration ($4.8 billion)
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ($387.3 million)
Secretary Pete Buttigieg testifies on the Department of Transportation budget Thursday morning at 10 am before the Senate transportation appropriations chair Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY
The Department of Treasury has a $20.4 billion budget request; $14.1 billion is for the Internal Revenue Service. The rest of the budget includes:
$2.29 billion for Multilateral Development Banks
$1.42 billion for Climate Change and Environment Funds
$8.2 million to support 27 staff positions for Treasury’s Climate Hub, a climate-related technical support center to conduct assessments of climate-related risks across Government programs
$5 million for electric vehicle leasing and charging infrastructure
Secretary Janet Yellen appears before Senate Appropriations subcommittee chair Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 PM.
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
The Biden administration is seeking $12 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a 19% increase from 2023. The budget includes $5 billion for climate change, $1.8 billion earmarked for environmental-justice work, and increased funding for lead-pipe removal, toxic chemicals, PFAS removal, increased criminal enforcement, and restoring 2,000 staff positions.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan testifies on the budget Wednesday morning at 10 am before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chaired by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).
U.S. FOREST SERVICE
The U.S. Forest Service, with an overall budget request of $9.7 billion, dedicates $323 million toward “hazardous fuels reduction”—also known as logging— an increase of $116 million from the 2023 enacted level. The 2024 budget request for workforce salaries and expenses is $1.42 billion, a $509 million increase above the 2023 enacted level to fund the costs of pay reforms for Federal wildland firefighters and increase Federal firefighting capacity.
U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore appears before Senate appropriators, with subcommittee chair Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), on Wednesday morning and House appropriators, chair Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday, the Senate Small Business Committee meets with Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman to discuss the $556 million Small Business Administration budget, including $10 million in climate-disaster and clean-energy related loan programs.
On Thursday, U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro presents the $859.7 million Government Accountability Office budget before House appropriators; the GAO has produced multiple reports on the high risk climate change poses to the federal government. United States Maritime Administration chief Ann Phillips and U.S. Federal Maritime Commission chair Daniel Maffei testify on the $980 million Maritime Administration budget before a House Transportation subcommittee.
Members of the House will testify before the Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies and Interior, Environment, and related agencies on Thursday, and on the Legislative Branch on Friday.