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The Week in Climate Hearings: Border Jet-Set

The EPA Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, landfill methane, and overturning the Rosemont decision

Sen. Krysten Sinema (I-Ariz.) in fascist cosplay, January 3, 2024. Credit: Francis Chung

Taking a swing in the eco-fascist direction, President Joe Biden is expressing excitement about a plan crafted by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) to give the president the authority to block asylum seekers, or as Biden put it, to “shut down the border.”

But, as House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La., no relation) points out, it doesn’t shut down the border enough to satisfy Donald Trump, so that’s pretty much that.

Speaking of Sinema, Sam Brodey reports that she’s been racking up the frequent-flyer miles on private jets paid for with her Senate stipend. Since 2020, she’s spent least $210,000 of her Senate office budget on private charter jets, including short-hop flights that would take only a two-hour drive. When Sinema is gallivanting to the border to claim asylum seekers are planted by cartels, she’s burning thousands of gallons of fossil fuels to do so. But sure, the families fleeing drought and famine and flood and fire and storms are the real threat to the American people.

There are several hearings this week on the border crisis, the expanding military conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, and heightening tension with China, all of which are driven by climate pollution.

Below, we’ll be looking at the more specifically climate-focused hearings, including a House GOP attack on the EPA Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund on Tuesday and a Senate hearing on methane pollution from landfills on Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 30

On Tuesday morning House Energy and Commerce subcommittees launch attacks on Biden administration environmental actions.

At 10 am is the latest hearing criticizing the agreement with tribal nations to remove the Lower Snake River dams in Washington state. Government witnesses include Council on Environment Quality chief Brenda Mallory, Department of Energy official Jeremiah Baumann, NOAA fisheries official Janet Coit, Bonneville Power Administration CEO John Hairston, and Army Civil Works assistant secretary Michael Connor. Industry complainants include Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA); Casey Chumrau, CEO, Washington Grain Commission; and Neil Maunu, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association. The one tribal representative testifying is the Yakama Nation’s Jeremy Takala.

At 10:30 am, the oversight subcommittee looks into the EPA Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a $27 billion initiative in the Inflation Reduction Act for the Environmental Protection Agency to set up local green banks financing and funding clean-energy and sustainability projects. Notably, the EPA has to spend out all the funds by the end of this year. So, oversight is reasonable, but given that the title of the hearing is “Fighting the Misuse of Biden’s Green Bank Giveaway,” one can’t expect the Republicans in charge of the committee to be reasonable. The one witness is EPA IRA implementation advisor Zealan Hoover, who was a climate staffer in the Obama White House and spent the Trump years at McKinsey.

At 2 pm, the House Science research subcommittee holds a hearing on reauthorizing the earthquake and windstorm hazards reduction programs with National Institute of Standards and Technology hazard-reduction expert Jason Averill, Federal Emergency Management Agency safety planning director Edward Laatsch, U.S. Geological Survey earthquake hazards director Dr. Gavin Hayes, and National Science Foundation engineering director Dr. Susan Margulies. The GOP hearing memo admits that windstorm and hurricane damage is getting worse but managed not to mention climate change.

Wednesday, January 31

At 10 am, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on avoiding, detecting, and capturing methane pollution from landfills with Carbon Mapper scientist Tia Scarpelli, Rocky Mountain Institute methane specialist Tom Frankiewicz, and landfill engineer and lobbyist Anne Germain.

House Natural Resources subcommittees are holding two hearings on proposed legislation on Wednesday.

In the morning, the federal lands subcommittee holds a hearing on five bills, notably the Root and Stem Project Authorization Act (H.R. 674), to authorize industry-run environmental impact approvals for “healthy forest” logging; as well as climate-disaster-related Restoring Our Unopened Trails for Enjoyment and Safety (ROUTES) Act (H.R. 6994), which require federal land managers to prioritize reopening trails, campsites, recreation areas, and roads within two years of a closure caused by a natural disaster, and gives them emergency authority to do so without environmental reviews. There is also H.R. 7072, which would mandate the sale of a 14-acre plot of federal forest in Wisconsin to the concrete company Tony’s Wabeno Redi-Mix. Witnesses include Hannah Downey of the Property and Environment Research Center, a polluter front group, and Sandy Adomatis, a green-building advocate and president of the Appraisal Institute.

In the afternoon, the energy and mineral resources subcommittee holds a hearing on two bills to overturn limits on mining and one for landslide preparedness. Rep. Mark Amodei’s (R-Nev.) Mining Regulatory Clarity Act (H.R. 2925) would overturn the Ninth Circuit’s Rosemont decision protecting sacred sites from mine waste, allowing mine operations to use, occupy, and conduct operations on public land regardless of whether a mineral deposit has been discovered; and Rep. Doug Lamborn’s (R-Colo.) bill (H.R. 6862) would amend the FAST Act to include all mineral mining activities as a covered project granted fast-track approval, overturning the Biden administration’s rule which limits it to critical minerals. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) has introduced H.R. 7003 to reauthorize the National Landslide Preparedness Act. Witnesses include Dr. Steven Feldgus of the Department of the Interior, gold mine lawyer Rich Haddock, and Jeffrey Stiffarm, president of the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana.

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