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The Week in Climate Hearings: Big Oil's Criminal Deception

climate hawks take on Big Oil and climate deniers attack Big Green

This week, climate hawks take on Big Oil and climate deniers attack the existence of environmental groups.

It hit 90° in the Washington area today as the House Rules Committee moved bills to reinstate oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge, delist the gray wolf, reinstate the Twin Metals mine in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest, overturn the Ninth Circuit’s Rosemont decision protecting sacred sites from mine waste, and protect the use of toxic lead ammunition on federal lands, after a weekend of horrific tornadoes in Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Guangzhou, and of fossil-fueled floods that swept dozens to their death in Kenya.

Over the past forty years, the formerly conservationist Republican Party has consolidated as a virulently anti-environmental party, as a result of a decades-long effort by polluting industry, particularly Big Oil, to reshape their priorities.

Two hearings this week will expose this radical shift in American politics and explore the insidious influence of polluters in our democracy.

At 10:15 am on Tuesday, the House Natural Resources oversight subcommittee will hold a hearing questioning the legitimacy of environmental organizations, specifically attacking Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland for her association with the environmental justice organization Pueblo Action Alliance, attacking the Wilderness Society for its successful advocacy against the Twin Metals mine, and calling mainline environmental groups the National Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters “extreme activist nonprofit organizations.”2  

The Republican witnesses are Scott Walter of the climate-denial shop Capital Research Center and The Daily Signal’s Tyler O’Neil, also a hardcore climate denier and conspiracy theorist. The Democratic witness is former Republican Richard Painter, the vice-chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

At 9 am on Wednesday, May 1st, Senate Budget chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) takes the fossil-fuel industry to task for deliberately profiting from climate pollution in a hearing entitled Denial, Disinformation, and Doublespeak: Big Oil’s Evolving Efforts to Avoid Accountability for Climate Change.

The hearing will feature Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, who with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) investigated Big Oil’s criminal deceit when Democrats ran the House; Geoffrey Supran, director of the Climate Accountability Lab at the University of Miami, who has helped expose ExxonMobil’s long campaign of public deception about the scientific threat of their product; and Sharon Eubanks, former director of the Department of Justice Tobacco Litigation Team, who forced Big Tobacco to pay $206 billion for their similar criminal deception of the deadliness of their addictive product.1

Republicans plan to discuss the centrality of oil and gas to global geopolitics: the Republican witnesses will be political scientist Ariel Cohen, a 20-year Heritage Foundation veteran focused on Russian petropolitics who now works for the International Tax and Investment Center, a Big Oil front group for killing taxes on the global fossil-fuel industry, overseen by oil executives and high-level right-wing politicians; and Michael Ratner, a Congressional Research Service specialist in global oil and gas infrastructure.

Other Hearings of Interest

Tuesday, April 30

At 10 am, the House oversight committee holds a hearing on the U.S. Office of Management and Budget with deputy director Jason Miller, and the House Ways and Means Committee interviews Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Wednesday, May 1

Friday, May 3

Republicans will hold a field hearing at 10 am local time in Sandstone, Minnesota to question protections for the endangered gray wolf.

Gray Wolf. credit: Anders Illum

Gray Wolf. Credit: Anders Illum

Budget Hearings

Appropriators continue to be busy with the fiscal year 2025 budget request, with a plethora of hearings. The slate below gives a taste of the broad federal effort to tackle climate pollution and defend the nation from climate disaster.

Several Biden officials head to both the House and Senate this week:

At 10 am on Tuesday, the House science committee reviews NASA’s $25 billion budget request with NASA administrator Bill Nelson. $2.4 billion is requested for NASA’s earth science activities.

At 1 pm on Wednesday, House appropriators will discuss the Department of Agriculture’s conservation and farmer support programs with Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie and the chiefs of the agencies in his division: the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Terry Cosby, the Farm Service Agency’s Zach Ducheneaux, and the Risk Management Agency’s Marcia Bunger.

Also of note are the “member day” hearings for members to advocate for earmarks—the member day for State, Foreign Relations, and related programs is at 10 am on Wednesday and the member day for Interior, Environment, and related agencies is 10 am on Thursday.

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1  As President Joe Biden’s recent decision to kill the Federal Drug Administration’s planned rule to ban deadly and addictive menthol cigarettes shows, the tobacco industry’s influence over our government—regardless of the party in charge—remains strong.

2  It is a modern development for Republican elected officials to demonize such organizations, as the Republican Party shed its conservationist past. NRDC’s founders included Republican politician Mike Seymour and LCV’s longtime chairman was Republican scion Theodore Roosevelt IV.

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