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The Week in Climate Hearings: Ocean Storms

Torrents of rain and petrochemicals

Celene Pulido’s home was flooded in San Diego on Monday. Credit: Ariana Drehsle

Our fossil-fueled climate continues its assault on society: A furious deluge struck southern California on Monday, the wettest January day in San Diego history, “shutting down highways, swamping roads and leaving some residents to watch helplessly as water swept away their cars or wreaked havoc on their homes.” In the Europe, hurricane-force Storm Isha killed two and knocked out power for tens of thousands; Storm Jocelyn is on its way.

As a broken polar vortex allowed Arctic cold to sweep down into the United States, killing dozens, in the southern hemisphere Liberia’s new president Joseph Boakai suffered heat exhaustion, fights broke out at a sweltering soccer match in Ivory Coast, and Australia broiled under severe heat. Cyclone Kirrily is now bearing down on Queensland.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is lining up behind Donald Trump, who can’t even pronounce the word “climate,” as their presidential candidate. On the more mannerly side of right-wing obeisance polluting industries, the Supreme Court is preparing to knock down the Chevron doctrine which underlies how courts deal with disputes over federal rule-making, putatively on behalf of herring fishermen, even though they don’t actually have any grievance.

The GOP-run House of Representatives is taking the week off, but the Senate is in session, with several hearings of interest.

Wednesday, January 24

There are three climate and environmental hearings at 10 am.

Budget chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) holds his latest climate hearing, this time on the climate-change threat to ocean industries. Witnesses include paleoclimatologist Dr. Andrea Dutton, environmental economist and fisheries expert Dr. Rashid Sumaila, marine ecologist Dr. Thomas Frazer, global-trade economist Dr. Phil Levy, and fly-fishing climate activist Kyle Schaefer.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee conducts oversight of implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act amendments, with Michal Freedhoff, Ph.D., assistant administrator at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. The EPA proposed amendments to TSCA last year, including strengthening controls on the class of “forever chemicals” (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). As Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has been investigating, the fracking boom has led to an explosion in the production of toxic plastics and petrochemicals with almost no constraint from the EPA.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Relations Committee is voting on several Biden nominees, including Kurt Campbell, the current presidential advisor for Asian affairs, to be deputy Secretary of State; former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to be the U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Jeffrey Prescott, now the deputy to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to be the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture; and diplomat Joann Lockard to be ambassador to war-torn Burkina Faso.

Thursday, January 25

At 10 am, the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee led by chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) looks at reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program with witnesses Daniel Kaniewski, the Trump administration’s Deputy Administrator for Resilience at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and now a director at Marsh McLennan, and Michael Hecht, the president of Greater New Orleans, an economic development organization for southeastern Louisiana.

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee interviews more Biden nominees, including career diplomat Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir to be ambassador to Indonesia; former Airbnb lobbyist Courtney Diesel O’Donnell to be the U.S. representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and career diplomat Andrew Plitt to be the assistant administrator for Middle Eastern affairs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

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