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The Week in Climate Hearings: Peak Oil Bloom

Global Methane in Geneva and Houston, GND Happy Hour, PFAS, FY2025 Budget

Even as hearings on the fiscal year 2025 budget get underway this week, Congress has until Friday to pass appropriations for three-quarters of federal discretionary spending for fiscal year 2024, although it’s nearly half over. The six spending packages are State-Foreign Operations, Defense, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS, Legislative Branch and Financial Services-General Government, with Homeland Security’s border provisions the remaining sticking point. However, yet again House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La., no relation) has no real leverage, so the Senate-determined deal will eventually go through.

Government officials and oil and gas executives are gathering this week in Houston and Geneva for the CERAWeek fossil fest and the United Nations’ Global Methane Forum, respectively. CERAWeek gets higher-ranking officials, though. Speakers on Monday alone include Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, White House climate envoy John Podesta, White House international LNG czar Amos Hochstein, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Department of Energy officials Jigar Shah, Noah Deich, Kelly Cummins, David Crane, Katheryn Scott, and Joshua Volz. CERAWeek will also see the CEOs of climate killers ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Oxy, TotalEnergies, Equinor, Hess, Southern Company, NRG Energy, Dominion Energy, National Grid, Cheniere, Hunt Energy, Baker Hughes, PNM Resources, Enbridge, NextEra Energy, Schlumberger, Dow, Engie, Eni, Kuwait Petroleum, ADNOC, Saudi Aramco, Korea National Oil Corporation, the American Petroleum Institute and any number of other fossil-fuel sponsors of The New York Times, Axios, Politico, and other media organizations. Also, billionaire Bill Gates.

Those fossil-fuel executives and lobbyists will not be welcome, however, at this month’s Green New Deal happy hour, taking place Wednesday afternoon at Alero Restaurant in DC.

Monday, March 18

On Monday morning, House Financial Services oversight chair Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) held a field hearing in Lebanon, Tennessee on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s newly finalized climate disclosure rule. Because the rule excludes downstream (Scope 3) pollution and compliance is voluntary, the testimony of the Republican witnesses mostly attacked what was in the stronger draft rule. The Republicans celebrated the decision on Friday by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to place an emergency stay on the rule at the behest of fracking companies, even though the rule doesn’t require any climate disclosures until March 2026. Republican officials from the states of West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Alaska, New Hampshire, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, Virginia have also filed suit to kill the rule, as have GOP officials from Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Hearings

More fossil-fueled beauty

One of Oregon’s smallest utilities is suddenly among the state’s biggest polluters, thanks to the data centers of the National Cherry Blossom’s lead sponsor, Amazon. Credit: Michelle Cassidy

Wednesday, March 20

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm returns from Houston to the capital to appear before House appropriators on Wednesday at 10 am to discuss the $51.42 billion Department of Energy FY2025 budget request, which has a 9 percent increase in defense spending and a 5 percent increase in non-defense spending from FY2023. The budget includes $10.6 billion in DOE climate and clean energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment programs.

At the same time, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Bacerra presents the the $130.7 billion Department of Health and Human Services budget request to House appropriators, including $4.1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, $40 million for climate research by the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $10 million for lead poisoning testing, and $10 million for climate programs in the Centers for Disease Control.

Thursday, March 21

On Thursday at 10 am, Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young reviews the full $7.3 trillion budget, with $1.9 trillion in discretionary spending, before the House Budget committee, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen does the same for the Senate Finance committee. Then Yellen and Young are joined by White House Council of Economic Advisors chair Jared Bernstein at 2:30 pm before the House Appropriations government subcommittee to discuss the budget and economic outlook.

Also on Thursday at 10 am, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack presents the FY2025 Department of Agriculture budget request, with $31.6 billion in discretionary spending, with another $10 billion in discretionary spending already authorized. The department considers $11.6 billion of the budget to be climate-related, in addition to $19.5 billion already authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act. The climate spending including $7.5 billion in rural electric programs and $5.1 billion in forest management.

Other Hearings

Gus Schumacher on a snowless road

Olympic cross-country skier Gus Schumacher testifies Wednesday on climate change

Wednesday, March 20

At 10 am, the Senate Environment Committee examines PFAS as hazardous substances. Environmental Working Group’s Scott Faber, a long-time advocate for the banning of PFAS, New Mexico environmental secretary James Kenney, who has fought for years to regulate PFAS, and the Water Coalition Against PFAS’s Michael Witt are joined by Congressional Research Service lawyer Kate Bowers and industrial polluter lobbyist Robert Fox. Witt will argue that water commissions should not be held liable for cleaning up PFAS contamination, while Fox will argue industrial polluters should not be held liable.

Meanwhile, Budget chair Sheldon Whitehouse holds his latest climate hearing, looking at the cost of global warming to the recreational industry, with Olympic cross-country skier Gus Schumacher, fly fisherwoman Hilary Hutcheson, camping gear executive Theresa McKenney, macroeconomist Joao Gomes, and climate denier Scott Walter.

At 10:15 am, the House Natural Resources federal lands subcommittee holds a legislative hearing on Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez’s (D-N.M.) bill supporting tree seedlings (H.R. 5015) and several Republican bills limiting environmental protections for federal lands. Notably, H.R. 5499 from Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Calif.) would limit the creation of national monuments and H.R. 7006 from Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) would block the as-yet-theoretical natural asset companies from his state.

At 2:15 pm, the House Natural Resources energy subcommittee holds a hearing assessing domestic offshore energy reserves, but strangely the Republicans in charge are only interested in oil and gas reserves, not wind or geothermal. Gulf South climate justice advocate Kendall Dix and U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management deputy director Walter Cruickshank will be joined by several offshore oil and gas industry advocates.

Thursday, March 21

At 10 am, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee interviews the nominess for the Federal Energy Resources Commission who were recently announced by the White House: one climate hawk, Judy Cheng, and two industry stooges, Manchin staffer David Rosner and Republican zealot Lindsay See. As solicitor general of Manchin’s state West Virginia, See won the Supreme Court West Virginia v. EPA decision rolling back the EPA’s power to regulate climate pollution. Cheng is a real climate hawk who has thought long and hard about decarbonizing every sector of the economy. In contrast, Rosner’s main qualification is being a reliable policy booster for the fossil-fuel industry.

In addition, the House Natural Resources water and wildlife subcommittee holds a legislative hearing on bills for the Delaware River Basin, kelp forests, Great Lakes mapping, and using oil and gas rigs as artificial reefs.

Other hearings which will touch on issues of environmental and climate interest include:

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