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The Week in Climate Hearings: Off the Charts

Budget battle, war webinar, and a hot hearing on municipal bond risk

Thanks to an unrelenting rise in fossil-fuel pollution, 2023 was off the charts.

Welcome to 2024.

A submerged car sits in a car park after heavy rains and sewer system overflows in Wallingford, England, January 5th. Credit: Leon Neal

Farm land is flooded near Bendigo, Australia, January 8th. Credit: Diego Fedele

Old Town Alexandria is submerged by torrential rains, January 9th. Credit: Daniel Hamburg

Congress is hobbling towards the January 19th partial government shutdown deadline established by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La., no relation). Over the weekend, Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed on topline numbers for the 2024 budget, which hews closely to the agreement forged a year ago with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Now the funding legislation has to be written and approved. The Congressional Progressive Caucus Center has the details on the agreement, noting:

Given the Freedom Caucus’ angry response to this weekend’s deal, it seems safe to assume that at least some of its members will not vote for the “rule” to consider corresponding FY2024 spending bills. Since the minority party typically opposes the rule unanimously, the Speaker’s razor-thin margins make it all but certain that any rule to consider FY2024 spending bills will fail. That means the House will have to consider them under suspension of the rules, which does not allow for amendments and, critically, requires ⅔ of House members’ support to pass. Thus, Speaker Johnson would have to rely heavily on Democratic votes—a ploy that could further enrage the same far-right members who forced out former Speaker McCarthy. 

As Andrew Solender reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told Johnson that it’s highly unlikely the Senate will pass the four appropriations bills needed by the 19th, which means yet another short-term continuing resolution to avoid a Republican-induced shutdown.

At noon on Wednesday, 350 is hosting a webinar on the high costs of war and militarism for climate change, moderated by Guardian reporter Dharna Noor, who reported on the U.S. military’s tremendous carbon footprint in 2021. She will be speaking with Dr. Neta Crawford of the Costs of War Project, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance’s Ramón Mejia, a former Marine; Ashley LaMont of Honor the Earth; and 350’s Zaki Mamdoo from South Africa. On Tuesday, Noor’s colleague Nina Lakhani reported on new research about the astounding carbon footprint of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, which is greater than the annual climate pollution from most of the world’s nations.

And now, the week’s climate hearings.

Wednesday, January 10

At 10 am, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials, chaired by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio, no relation), investigates U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations for the oil and natural gas sector, particularly new methane pollution rules. The Republicans are calling natural gas “clean energy” yet oppose limits on its pollution. EPA official Joe Goffman will testify that “significant and sustained cuts in methane emissions are among the most crucial actions we can take to slow the rate of climate change.” He will be followed by oil and gas executives who will testify against the particulars of the new rules, with Democratic witness Jon Goldstein of the Environmental Defense Fund offering rebuttal.

Also at 10 am, Senate Budget chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) continues his climate-budget hearings with a look at safeguarding municipal bonds from climate risk (see the photos above). Witnesses include municipal industry expert Tom Doe of Municipal Market Analytics, Columbus, Ohio auditor Megan Kilgore, climate risk technologist Chris Hartshorn, environmental economist Matthew Kahn, and the centrist economist Eric Leeper, who has no published work on climate risk.

At 10:15 am, the House Natural Resources Oversight and Federal Lands subcomittees investigate the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog with Cardell Johnson of the Government Accountability Office, which just released a report on the backlog, and Department of the Interior Inspector General Mark Greenblatt, whose office issued a report in 2021.

Thursday, January 11

There are three climate hearings at 10 am on Thursday:

Senate Energy and Natural Resources chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) holds a hearing on the implementation of the new federal electric vehicle incentives included in his Inflation Reduction Act; Manchin stripped labor provisions and added domestic mining and manufacturing provisions to the rules, which the Biden administration has been trying to interpret in a way to allow them to apply to electric cars actually being made. The administration witnesses are Department of Energy deputy secretary David Turk and Treasury deputy secretary Adewale Adeyemo.

The House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee will look at the Biden Administration’s protections of the Outer Continental Shelf. Unsurprisingly, House Republicans and their oil-and-gas-friendly witnesses are unhappy about the limits placed on drilling. Dr. Walter Cruickshank, deputy director, of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, will testify on behalf of the administration, and Public Citizen’s Houston community organizer Erandi Treviño will testify in favor of the protections.

Finally, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and the Environment subcommittee continues its hearings on proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2024 with a member’s day hearing.

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