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Climate Hearings This Week: Under the Weather
Health costs, permit reform, and climate deniers vs. lesser prairie-chickens
The week in Washington, D.C. culminates with the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, April 29th. Host Roy ‘Polar Bear’ Wood Jr. is working on new Tucker Carlson-Don Lemon-Nate Silver auto-da-fé jokes, while youth climate activists with the new group Climate Defiance are planning a mass blockade of the event, to protest President Joe ‘Finish The Job’ Biden’s reckless spree of fossil-fuel projects on public lands.
The Congressional committee schedule has been pushed around by the South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s address to a joint session of Congress Thursday morning. Let’s take a look.
Wednesday, April 26
Climate hawk Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) continues his regular series of climate hearings as chair of the Budget Committee, with Wednesday morning’s hearing Under the Weather: Diagnosing the Health Costs of Climate Change.1 The Democratic witnesses are Maryland state representative Stephanie Smith, a public health and environmental justice advocate from Baltimore; Dr. Katelyn Moretti, an emergency-room physician, Brown University professor and expert on the health implications of climate change; and energy economist Michael Greenstone. The Republican witnesses are health-insurance lobbyist Carl Schramm and blatantly racist Jordan-Peterson-wannabe Michael Shellenberger.
Also at 10 am, Environment and Public Works chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) hosts
Opportunities to Improve Project Reviews for a Cleaner and Stronger Economy, looking for a version of permitting reform that’s an improvement on Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) “shit sandwich.” Carper invited the witnesses Christy Goldfuss from the National Resources Defense Council, WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Dana Johnson, and Christina Hayes from Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, an advocacy group backed by a coalition of business, environmental, and labor interests. The Republicans have invited the National Association of Manufacturers’ Jay Timmons and Marty Durbin from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It would be quite entertaining if they’re asked about their organizations’ decades-long climate-denial campaigns.
On the House side, Republicans are also focusing on climate policy, with House Energy and Commerce’s Critical Materials Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson (R-Ohio)’s entertainingly-titled “Exposing the Environmental, Human Rights, and National Security Risks of the Biden Administration’s Rush to Green Policies.” Because, you see, climate inaction is the only safe path.
As mentioned yesterday, the United States is responding to the growing global climate migrant crisis by bending towards lifeboat ethics. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) chairs a hearing on Tunisia, whose severe fossil-fueled drought is devastating the populace. Two hearings continue the development of Mexico as a carceral state for climate migrants seeking to reach the United States; in the morning the House Foreign Affairs committee marks up legislation to give the Secretary of State wide latitude in coordinating immigration control with Mexico, and in the afternoon Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) chairs “The effects of increased migration on communities along the southern border.” No need to mention the causes, of course.
Hearings on the FY2024 budget are ongoing, though at a more reasonable pace than in previous weeks.
In the morning, House Natural Resources looks at the U.S. Forest Service budget and its plans for wildfire management, old-growth forest protection, and logging; and
Senate Foreign Relations has Samantha Power to discuss the United States Agency for International Development budget.
In the afternoon, Senate appropriators hold their hearing on the public-works plans of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation; and
on the U.S. Department of Commerce, most of whose budget goes to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Iron Range Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) chairs a Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the budget for energy and climate-related agencies of the Department of Interior: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Other hearings of interest on Wednesday include the committee vote on the impressive Julie Su as Secretary of Labor and a full-day House Agriculture hearing for producer perspectives on the 2023 Farm Bill.
Thursday, April 27
On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) presents findings of a new report on plastics and public health, in preparation for future hearings in his ongoing series investigating the petrochemical industry.
Before President Yoon’s address, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to vote on a passel of ambassadorial nominations for career diplomats, including to the highly imperiled island nations of the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu; the petro-states United Arab Emirates and Kuwait; drought-ravaged Niger and Rwanda; and the former Soviet satellites Georgia, Albania, and Turkmenistan.
The House Natural Resources Committee is planning to mark up several anti-environmental bills, including ones to reverse Endangered Species protections for the lesser prairie-chicken, northern long-eared bat, gray wolf, and grizzly bear, all of whose survival inconveniently conflicts with ranchers or drillers.
In the afternoon, House Armed Services reviews the $215 billion Air Force and $30 billion Space Force budgets, of which $0.9 billion is climate-related; and Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan testifies before House appropriators on her agency’s plans, which include updating its regulations on environmental claims for the first time in a decade.
Friday, April 28
As fossil-fueled global warming accelerates, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 50-plus year old National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)—which is by far the nation’s leading provider of flood insurance coverage— “has experienced two of its top five, four of its top ten, and ten of its top 20 costliest flood events all in the last decade alone.” Friday morning, FEMA’s David Maurstad, the senior executive of the NFIP, testifies on the program before the House Financial Services’ insurance subcommittee.
Coincidentally, I’m under the weather, struggling with a mild though enervating chest cold. I blame Sheldon.