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The Week in Climate Hearings: Critical Minerals and Rapid Transit

House GOP pushes anti-climate marks and attacks on ESG

Florida floods

Extreme rainfall totals expected this week in Florida.

Florida tips from broiling heat to biblical deluge this week, with up to two feet of rain expected. Torrential downpours will swamp all of Central America this week as well. Tornado Alley is moving eastward. Triple-digit heat will bake Arizona, Nevada, and southern California, and Brazil’s wetlands are on fire.

The Supreme Court put a pause on Honolulu’s climate suit against Big Oil today, asking the U.S. Solicitor General to weigh in on the case.1 And water utilities and chemical polluters are suing to block the Biden administration’s limits on PFAS in drinking water.

Meanwhile, Congress is in session, with little to show that the growing fossil-fueled crisis is breaking through the wall of Big Oil political power that surrounds the Capitol. House Republicans have organized cartoonish hearings attacking climate action, as appropriations bills move forward with language forbidding implementation of climate policies. There are several hearings on rapid transit and rail, and several hearings encouraging domestic mining through the designation of “critical minerals.” The heads of the SEC, CFTC, and BLM get a grilling as well.

Tuesday, June 11

At 6 pm, the agricultural subcommittee of House Appropriations, chaired by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) with ranking member Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), marks up the fiscal year 2025 agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration bill. Republicans will push a “mark” forward that makes drastic cuts to nutritional assistance and with poison-pill riders on abortion, civil rights, and climate.

Wednesday, June 12

black vulture

Black Vultures are threatened by Rep. John Rose’s (R-Tenn.) H.R. 1437. Credit: Vladimir Kud

At 9 am, the full House Appropriations Committee marks up the Fiscal Year 2025 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs and Homeland Security bills. The subcommittee mark, which the full committee is not likely to improve, prohibits implementation of the Paris Agreement, eliminates John Podesta’s role as the Presidential climate envoy, prohibits US support for international climate funds, and bans implementation of executive orders on climate.

At 10:15 am, the House Natural Resources Committee marks up ten bills, seven of which are bipartisan. The three controversial bills are Rep. John Rose’s (R-Tenn.) H.R. 1437, which would permit ranchers to shoot black vultures without a permit, and two pieces of legislation to expand the Critical Minerals List, which was created by the Energy Act of 2020 to include minerals involved in renewable energy and batteries. Rep. Juan Ciscomani’s (R-Ariz.) H.R. 8446 would add copper, fluorine, silicon, and silicon carbide; Rep. Kat Cammack’s (R-Fla.) H.R. 8450 would add fertilizer precursors such as potash and phosphate.

At 10:30 am, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, will lead a hearing on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, charging corporations with “decarbonization collusion.” This is an novel use of antitrust statutes, to claim that voluntary reporting on ethical standards is a form of illegal collusion. The invited witnesses are Mindy Lubber, CEO of the climate corporate-responsibility group Ceres; Dan Bienvenue, interim chief investment officer of the giant state pension fund CalPERS, and influential sustainability advisor Natasha Lamb, managing partner of Arjuna Capital.

Wednesday afternoon is unusually busy.

At 2:30 pm, Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), a former petroleum geologist, chairs a Senate Labor subcommittee hearing on building the critical minerals workforce with Penn State mining engineer Barbara Arnold and Colorado School of Mines mining engineer Bill Zisch, Center for Strategic and International Studies mining economist Gracelin Baskaran, and lithium CEO Jon Evans.

At the same time, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto chairs a Senate Energy subcommittee hearing on twenty public lands, forests, and mining bills with Bureau of Land Management official Karen Kelleher, Forest Service official Troy Heithecker, and Utah assistant attorney general Tess Davis.

At 3 pm, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) chairs a Joint Economic Committee hearing on the boom in U.S. manufacturing investment. Witnesses include solar technology CEO Kevin Hostetler and full-employment advocate Skanda Amarnath.

Other hearings on Wednesday:

Thursday, June 13

Hawk in Yellowstone

This climate hawk in Yellowstone does not like Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-Ariz.) white-nationalist claims that immigrants threaten the national parks. Credit: paweesit

House Republicans are hosting two performatively anti-climate hearings on Thursday. In the morning, Natural Resources oversight chair Paul Gosar 9R-Ariz.) holds an ecofascist attack hearing, accusing immigrants and asylum seekers of “destroying” the national parks.

In the afternoon, Science oversight chair Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.) conducts a hearing attacking the California Air Resources Board's rail industry pollution standards. The CARB has set a target of net-zero pollution for freight rail in California by 2030.

Thursday begins early, as House appropriators start work at 9 am on the epic markup of the Fiscal Year 2025 Defense, Financial Services and General Government, and Legislative Branch bills. The $833 billion Defense mark is of course the main priority for the committee. As with the Wednesday’s markup, the bills under consideration forbid the implementation of climate-related executive orders.

At 9:30 am, Senate Energy chair Joe Manchin (I-W. Va.) conducts an oversight hearing for the Bureau of Land Management with BLM chief Tracy Stone-Manning.

At 10 am, Senate appropriators look at the budget requests for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with SEC head Gary Gensler and CFTC chief Rostin Behnam.

Also at 10, there is a House Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee hearing on securing America’s critical materials supply chains. Like the Critical Minerals List mentioned above, the List of Critical Materials was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2020. However, critical minerals are under the purview of the U.S. Geological Survey, whereas critical materials are overseen by the Department of Energy. The current critical materials list is broader than the critical minerals list.

On the Senate side, the Foreign Relations Committee interviews the nominees to be the U.S. ambassadors to Libya, Algeria, Senegal, Dominican Republic, and Iraq.

And at 11 am, the House Transportation highways and transit subcommittee holds a hearing on post-pandemic lessons in public transit with public and private transit lobbyists, AFL-CIO official Greg Regan, and transportation deregulation wingnut-for-hire Marc Scribner.

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1  The openly extremist Justice Samuel Alito did not participate, likely because he holds oil stocks.

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