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Emancipation Day to Earth Day: The Week in Climate Hearings
GOP attacks on renewable investment; the RESCUE Whales Act; Budgetpalooza
This week, Congress returns from a two-week recess, with a busy agenda.
It’s Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C., thanks to the work of Loretta Carter Hanes. Congress is celebrating the occasion by voting this week to overturn the city’s policing reform act, a month after overturning the city’s crime reform act.
Thanks to the burning of hundreds of billions of tons of fossil fuels, Washington DC has seen multiple days in April with highs above 80° and lows above 60°, with the last frost weeks ago. Which means cherry blossom season is well past and mosquito season has begun in our nation’s capital. Saturday is Earth Day, which DC activists are planning to mark with a protest and rally to End the Era of Fossil Fuels. Congressional Republicans are marking Earth Day with legislation to reverse Endangered Species protections and attacks on renewable energy.
The hearings on the fiscal year 2024 budget are below the superbloom. First, we review other climate-related hearings.
Tuesday, April 18
Tuesday morning, the House Science chair Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) holds a hearing on his legislation to establish the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, now part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, as an independent agency. The witnesses are former Bush and Trump NOAA administrators.
Securities Exchange Commission Gary Gensler testifies before the House Financial Services Committee to review the commission’s recent actions, including last year’s proposed climate risk disclosure rule; the final rule is expected soon.
The House Natural Resources Committee has two subcommittee hearings Tuesday morning. National Parks Service director Chuck Sams appears before the Federal Lands subcommittee to discuss the terrible backlog of deferred maintenance in the park system. The Water, Wildlife and Fisheries subcommittee hears testimony on Republican bills to to restore a Trump-era restriction on the Endangered Species Act definition of critical habitat, and to override Endangered Species protections for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken and the Northern Long-Eared Bat, as well as the RESCUE Whales Act from Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) to repeal the provision in the 2023 omnibus spending bill that allows the Maine lobster industry to kill North Atlantic right whales.
Tuesday afternoon, House Oversight’s energy policy subcommittee will have Chair Pat Fallon (R-Texas) squaring off against Ranking Member Cori Bush (D-Mo.) about the Department of Energy’s increased budget under the Biden administration. Fallon plans to follow the lead of Fox News in attacking DOE’s investments in renewable energy companies with ties to China.
Meanwhile, the energy subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce, chaired by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), holds a hearing on subsidizing the American nuclear power industry.
Wednesday, April 19
On Wednesday, EPA administrator Michael Regan appears before the House Agriculture Committee.
Ways and Means chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) hosts a hearing attacking Biden’s renewable-energy tax incentives, following the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News and the Wall Street Journal line that the tax code is now “subsidizing green corporate handouts and the Chinese Communist Party.”
And House Science hosts the inspectors general of EPA, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Departments of Energy and Transportation to discuss potential waste, fraud, and mismanagement.
Thursday, April 20
On Thursday, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) chairs a hearing on conservation programs in the Farm Bill.
Hearings on the 2024 Budget
President Joe Biden’s executive orders 13990, 14008, 14013 14027, 14030, 14052, 14057, 14072, and 14082 make climate action a mission of every part of the federal government; the two dozen hearings mentioned below are not an exhaustive list of the hearings happening this week.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
As we’ve mentioned before, the Department of Defense takes the lion’s share of the discretionary budget, with an overall budget request of $842 billion. The DOD priority is raising military tensions with China—“the People’s Republic of China is our pacing challenge.” $9.1 billion of the budget is dedicated to the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, the DOD’s primary (though not exclusive) effort to “strengthen deterrence against the People’s Republic of China.” In comparison, $5.1 billion, or 0.6%, is directed to mitigating climate risk. The department spends about $9 billion a year on fossil fuels.
On Tuesday morning, Senate appropriators review the $215.1 billion Air Force budget request ($942 million of which is seen as climate-related) and the $30 billion Space Force request ($6 million on climate risk).
Tuesday afternoon is the first of several hearings this week on the military construction plans—House appropriators review the $6.1 billion Navy and Marine Corps construction request, including a $1 billion Pearl Harbor drydock being built to deal with planned sea-level rise. On Wednesday, Senate appropriators review the full $16.7 billion construction budget, and Senate Armed Services committee members review the military’s construction, energy use, and base closure plans. On Thursday, House appropriators review the $3.7 billion budget for Air Force and Space Force construction.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
On Tuesday morning, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hosts its member day, for members of Congress to testify on priorities and earmarks for their districts.
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget request is $73.3 billion. Of that, $1.5 billion is dedicated to the strategic goal of “advancing sustainable communities by strengthening climate resilience and energy efficiency, promoting environmental justice, and recognizing housing’s role as essential to health.”
$410 million to mitigate lead and other health hazards in low-income households.
$300 million for the installation of measures to increase energy efficiency, reduce water consumption, and promote climate resilience in public housing, and $85 million to reduce lead and other health hazards in public housing.
$185 million to help communities develop and implement locally-driven, comprehensive neighborhood plans to transform underserved neighborhoods with resilient and energy-efficient structures.
$150 million to eligible Indian Tribes that rehabilitate and construct new housing units with the focus on increasing energy efficiency, improving water conservation, and furthering climate resilience.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
The Department of Energy is seeking a $52 billion budget. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm appears before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday to present the budget, a week after her department approved a proposal to export liquefied natural gas from Alaska to Asia.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
On Tuesday afternoon, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell presents a budget request of $30.2 billion, including $20.3 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund and $4.8 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program, to House appropriators.
At the same time, the House Transportation Committee looks at the U.S. Coast Guard FY2024 budget request of $13.5 billion, including $150 million for a commercial polar icebreaker because “the Arctic is becoming more accessible due to climate change.” The Coast Guard also has a $450 million Polar Operations Research and Development budget.
DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
Though most of the department’s $18.9 billion budget request can be reasonably considered climate-friendly, about $500 million of the budget is in support of oil and gas leasing and $15 million is intended for supporting carbon capture and sequestration.
In the wake of her department’s recent approval of the ConocoPhilips Alaska Willow oil project, Secretary Deb Haaland appears before the House Natural Resources oversight subcommittee on Wednesday to discuss the budget request.
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
The Department of Commerce’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget proposes $12.3 billion in discretionary funding and $4 billion in mandatory funding. $6.8 billion is for NOAA.
U.S. FOREST SERVICE
The U.S. Forest Service, with an overall budget request of $9.7 billion, dedicates $323 million toward “hazardous fuels reduction”—also known as logging— an increase of $116 million from the 2023 enacted level. The 2024 budget request for workforce salaries and expenses is $1.42 billion, a $509 million increase above the 2023 enacted level to fund the costs of pay reforms for Federal wildland firefighters and increase Federal firefighting capacity.
U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore appears before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday morning.
The National Science Foundation FY2024 budget request is $11.314 billion, including $1 billion for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, $550.5 million for clean energy research, $30 million for the National Discovery Cloud for Climate, and $15 million for climate equity fellowships.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration FY2024 budget request is $27.2 billion, including $2.5 billion for earth science.
On Tuesday afternoon, Senate appropriators meet with both NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan and NASA administrator Bill Nelson. On Wednesday, House appropriators review the NSF budget in the morning and the NASA budget in the afternoon.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget request of $11.6 billion includes $88.6 million for vector-borne diseases and $421 million for environmental health, which includes $21 million for the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) Cooperative Agreement.
The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response budget request of $4.3 billion includes $130 million for the National Disaster Medical System, which coordinates medical responses to climate disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires.
House appropriators receive testimony from the heads of the three agencies Wednesday morning.
Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Kahn and commissioners Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya testify Tuesday before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the FTC’s $590 million budget request. The FTC is now seeking public comment on its “Green Guides,” which seek to prevent companies from making deceptive environmental claims, as it updates them for the first time in a decade, potentially to include climate deception.
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