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Climate Week: Schumer Responds to Puerto Rico Devastation By Fast-Tracking Fossil-Fuel Projects

What happened to "stop all of the expansion of coal, oil, and gas," Chuck?


“There is an imperative, not just an option, to stop this plant and to stop all of the expansion of coal, oil, and gas throughout our country and, frankly, throughout our world.”

Those are the words of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), spoken on July 21, 2021 in opposition to a Queens gas peaker plant, flanked by eco-socialist Green New Dealers. He later joined them in the chant, “Hey hey, ho ho, fossil fuels have got to go.

Now he’s threatening a government shutdown to fast-track the expansion of oil and gas throughout our country and our world.

I wonder what convinced Chuck to change his tune since then. Was it the floods or the fires or the droughts or the heat waves or the storms?

Chuck had a busy Tuesday, giving impassioned speeches about climate justice in public while working behind the scenes to force the construction of more fossil-fuel sacrifice zones.

Flanked by Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-N.Y.), Hispanic Federation CEO Frankie Miranda, Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration executive director Carmen Feliciano, and University of Puerto Rico Law Center’s Adi Martinez-Roman, Schumer marked both the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria and the ongoing crisis of Hurricane Fiona striking Puerto Rico.

Schumer spoke out about the urgent need for Puerto Rico to have a resilient, non-polluting solar-powered grid. He castigated the private utility LUMA for promoting the “ridiculous” greater use of natural gas on the island, and touted the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act as a “landmark climate bill that will help Puerto Rico and other communities by reducing the emissions that are making storms more extreme.”

Schumer also went to the Senate floor to announce the votes this week to ratify the Kigali Amendment, stressing the importance of this treaty to “protect our planet” from super greenhouse pollutants. Tuesday’s cloture vote passed 64-30, and the Thursday vote on ratification, which needs 67 votes, is expected to succeed.

Meanwhile, Schumer also confirmed that he still intends to threaten a government shutdown in order to pass Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) dirty plan to fast-track fossil-fuel projects like the fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline and LNG infrastructure on Puerto Rico by attaching it to the upcoming continuing resolution.

Permitting reform is part of the IRA and I intend to add it to the CR and get it done,” Schumer told reporters. The CR must pass both houses by September 30th to keep the federal government fully open.

The text will be out tomorrow,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said yesterday, which means that the text will be out today. He confirmed his deal will specifically fast-track the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and spent most of the conference complaining that Republicans don’t appreciate how hard he’s working to pass their fossil-fuel agenda. He then belittled Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-W.Va.) counter-proposal as a “messaging bill” and thanked the White House for being “extremely supportive.” He’s a likable guy!

A new poll from WE ACT and Data for Progress confirm that the Manchin deal to prioritize pipelines is widely unpopular with voters.

“Only about 380,000 of Puerto Rico's 1.5 million utility customers had power by Wednesday morning, the government said,” CNN reports, and hundreds of thousands are without water. But those residents who had been able to invest in solar power and battery storage rode out the storm without problems.

Eddie Ramirez, owner of Casa Sol, a bed and breakfast located in the territory’s northern capital of San Juan, who equipped his business with solar panels and battery storage back in 2013, told Inside Climate News’s Kristoffer Tigue:

“Personally, me and my family, we’re good. Puerto Rico, I can say, is not.”

Canary Media’s Maria Gallucci texted with Guánica’s Luis Saez, who works at a fire department equipped with a similar system:

“The solar system is working beautifully!” Saez said while responding to storm-related damages, adding that all of the local rivers flooded and roads were clogged with trees and debris. ​“We did not lose power all throughout the hurricane.”

And solar evangelist Arturo Massol-Deyá, whose environmental organization Casa Pueblo has been on solar power since 1999, writes in the Houston Chronicle:

We have installed solar panels at over 130 homes of low-income families and people with chronic diseases who need power for things like respirators. Just yesterday, a neighbor told us that thanks to the solar arrays installed, his daughter’s dialysis machine was able to keep functioning during these past few days of Fiona.

It’s Climate Week, so let’s take a moment to pay attention to international climate politics.

Yesterday, oil giant Saudi Aramco’s chief Amin Nasser blasted ‘unrealistic’ energy transition plans,” and called for “ramped-up investments in fossil fuels,” while UN chief Antonio Guterres called for “all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies,” saying that it’s “high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers on notice.”

The Danish government announced it would direct $13 million into an international “loss and damage” fund—a token sum, but consequential because it is the first time any wealthy nation has pledged any money for climate reparations.

Trump-picked World Bank President David Malpass, as long-time Hill Heat readers know, is a real jerk. At a New York Times Climate Week event yesterday, Al Gore made sure the audience knew it, too:

“We need to get a new head of the World Bank. This is ridiculous to have a climate denier as the head of the World Bank.”

NYT’s David Gelles didn’t miss the opportunity to press Malpass when he showed up at the same event. Under persistent questioning from Gelles on whether he accepted “the scientific consensus that the man-made burning of fossil fuels is rapidly and dangerously warming the planet,” Malpass went from filibuster to bluster, falling back on the classic “I’m not a scientistdefense.

President Joe Biden, who led his speech before the UN General Assembly today with concern about “record heat, floods, and droughts,” continued:

Let this be the moment we find within ourselves the will to turn back the tide of climate devastation and unlock a resilient, sustainable, clean energy economy to preserve our planet.

However, Biden is still backing the Manchin dirty-energy economy plan, and skipped the UN climate roundtable today led by Guterres and Egypt president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is hosting the next round of international climate talks this November. Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate will be one of the leading advocates at the talks, where local activists are already being muzzled.

It turns out that vultures that scavenge carcasses are major boons to the climate and reining in CO2. Decaying animal bodies release greenhouse gases, with each kilogram emitting 0.86 kilograms of CO2 equivalent. An individual vulture can eat between 0.2 kilograms and 1 kilogram of that meat a day, and given that there are 134 million to 140 million vultures worldwide, you’re talking some serious carbon sequestration in the grossest possible manner. Vultures in the Americas keep 12 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent out of the atmosphere every year, which is the equivalent of taking 2.6 million cars off the road. With vulture populations outside of the Americas in free fall, though, the emissions from decaying animals are again an issue.

Dakota Access Pipeline saboteur Ruby Montoya, who cooperated against fellow activist Jessica Reznicek who was sent to prison for eight years on terrorism charges, is facing her sentencing today.

The Jackson water crisis takes center stage in Congress today: Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Jackson, Miss.), chair of the Homeland Security Committee, oversees a hearing on our nation’s water infrastructure, with former FEMA chief Craig Fugate, DC Water chief David Gadis, and NAACP climate justice director Abre´ Conner. Environmental justice advocates are calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over the state’s water system by activating provisions of the Safe Water Drinking Act.

House Science has a hearing on weather satellites, Senate Environment reviews the bipartisan infrastructure law, and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) takes up several national parks-related bills.

Congrats: Nikhil Swaminathan has been named the new CEO of Grist.

Hearings on the Hill:

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