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The Week in Climate Hearings: Specious Endangerment

Grid insecurity, California waiver, Critical Minerals List, Clean School Buses

The United Nations General Assembly is meeting in New York City next week, which means it’s also Climate Week NYC. Activists are coming from across the country to the city on September 17 for the March to End Fossil Fuels. There are buses and trains organized from Vermont to Virginia for the march. Join the march if you can.

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Before we get to the committee hearings, we need to review the current status of the game of chicken being waged over the September 30th government-funding deadline. Hardliners in the Republican-controlled House are threatening to shut down the government or dethrone House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) if their extreme demands—like launching impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden— aren’t met. But it’s now looking like their bluff is being called—by Senate Republicans.

In the Washington Post, Paul Kane writes that the U.S. Senate, which worked in committees on a bipartisan basis to report out funding bills, is planning to stick together on the following schedule:

This standoff will play out in at least three steps over the next three months: First, the Sept. 30 deadline to pass a stopgap bill to keep federal agencies running; next, using that extra time to approve detailed agency budgets; and then hammering out differences between the House and Senate’s Pentagon policy bills.

McCarthy’s office has all but admitted the Senate will get its way, saying that the “short-term continuing resolution, or spending stopgap of a few months, might be necessary.”

On the Senate and House floor, we will see some of the funding bills slowly moving forward, DemandProgress’s Taylor Swift reports:

The House is scheduled to start consideration of the Defense Appropriations bill on the floor on Wednesday. The Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday to consider that bill and we see 339 amendments on deck. We do not see the Homeland Security Appropriation bills lined up in the people’s chamber this week. Amendments to the Homeland Security package were due last week and Republican members made ample use of the Holman Rule, targeting 12 DHS officials.

The Senate, meanwhile, is moving forward separately, beginning floor consideration of a MilCon/VA [Military Construction/Veterans Administration], Agriculture, and Transportation-HUD minibus [H.R. 4366] Monday.

The other bill the House is looking to vote on this week is, no surprise, anti-climate legislation. The Rules Committee meeting will also set up the floor debate schedule for the so-called Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act (H.R. 1435), which would kill California’s pro-electric-vehicle climate rules. As Democratic lawmakers write:

We oppose H.R. 1435, legislation to prevent the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from granting a waiver of federal preemption under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for any California vehicle emissions standard that ‘‘directly or indirectly limit[s] the sale or use of’’ vehicles with internal combustion engines and directs EPA to revoke already-granted waivers that do not comply with this vague metric. This would put existing waivers dating back to 2013 in jeopardy, upend the entire clean vehicle supply chain, and create uncertainty for the U.S. automotive industry. This bill is a direct attack on over 50 years of Congress and EPA recognizing California’s ability to voluntarily adopt those standards to protect their citizens from dangerous air pollution and climate change.

Tuesday, September 12

On Tuesday afternoon, Defenders of Wildlife is co-hosting a symposium at the Capitol on the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act with other conservation groups. Invited speakers include Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams, and NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit.1

In the morning, the Senate Banking committee hosts Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler for an SEC oversight hearing. As we’ve previously discussed, one of the most politically contentious issues for the SEC these days is its proposed rule for corporate climate risk disclosure.

The aforementioned House Rules hearing begins at 4 PM.

Wednesday, September 13

On Wednesday morning, Senate environment chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) chairs a hearing examining the effects of extreme heat and weather on transportation. Phoenix heat officer Dr. David Hondula, LiUNA’s Travis Parsons, and transportation safety consultant Aimee Flannery are the invited witnesses.

House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chair Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) holds a legislative hearing on electric grid reliability and federal energy efficiency standards, with the bizarre premise that energy efficiency and renewable energy are greater threats to the grid than extreme heat and weather. Republicans are proposing legislation to severely restrict energy efficiency standards on distribution transformers (H.R. 4167) and on appliances (not yet introduced), as well as the GRID Act, a bill which would let states gum up EPA or DOE climate pollution rules for electric utilities by compelling Federal Energy Regulatory Commission involvement. Federal officials Gene Rodrigues of the Department of Energy and David Ortiz of FERC will testify. Energy efficiency advocate Andrew deLaski of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project will testify on the second panel with Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) climate denier Ben Lieberman and several corporate lobbyists.

Meanwhile, EPA Inspector General Sean O’Donnell is testifying before another House Energy and Commerce subcommittee about the agency’s $5 billion Clean School Bus program, part of the $60 billion awarded to the agency by the bipartisan infrastructure law.

And the House Natural Resources mining subcommittee is investigating the U.S. Geological Survey’s Critical Minerals List. Under the Biden administration, the list prioritizes minerals used in renewable energy and battery production, but does not include uranium. USGS official Nedal Nassar, mining industry lobbyists and advocates, and environmental scientist Dustin Mulvaney will testify.

The dry stack tailing facility at the proposed Hermosa Manganese Mine in Arizona. Credit: Mark Henle

Thursday, September 14

At 9 AM, the House Ways and Means Committee, which hands out earmarks, has its Member Day. It will be interesting to find out what, if any, climate resilience initiatives are supported.

And then at 10 AM the House Natural Resources oversight subcommittee, run by wingnut Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) has a hearing on the White House Council on Environmental Quality, led by Brenda Mallory. It’s unclear if she will attend; other witnesses include CEI’s notorious climate denier Marlo Lewis and former Trump CEQ official Mario Loyola, who is now at CEI. The Democratic witness is EarthJustice attorney Jill Witkowski Heaps.

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1 This should be an excellent event, though there are also non-white people who care about and can speak knowledgeably about endangered species as well.

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