Fail Whales

Our dumb shutdown update, insurance collapses, and the Climate California launch


The Senate advanced a 47-day continuing resolution to keep the federal government open by a bipartisan vote of 77-19 last night. The bill maintains funding levels and includes $6 billion each for Ukraine and climate disaster relief. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced he will slow down the final vote as much as possible, effectively guaranteeing a government shutdown on Sunday. Meanwhile, House Republicans are flailing their way to shuttering the government without any coherent agenda. “I don’t think people quite have a grasp of how thoroughly absurd the Republican position is on a government shutdown,” Ryan Grim grimly notes.

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As fossil-fueled storms, floods, and fires rise, the cost of property insurance is skyrocketing across the nation. The post-Rupert Murdoch Wall Street Journal’s Konrad Putzier describes how “exploding insurance costs” are squeezing commercial property owners. “Intensifying natural disasters are a big reason for the increase, particularly in cities vulnerable to wildfires, floods or storms,” he notes.

And if you’re not moved by the plight of the Three Pillars Capital Group or Olive Tree Holdings, WSJ’s Cameron McWhirter and Arian Campo-Flores have a deeply compelling story about the Louisiana Delta’s working-class communities being destroyed by storms, rising seas, and their abandonment by property insurers.

“Straddling the Mississippi River and bordered by swampland, St. John the Baptist Parish lost a higher percentage of people than any other county in the U.S. except California’s Lassen County—which has been hit by wildfires—from 2021 to 2022.”

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Twin Cities Marathon runners will face extreme heat and humidity this Sunday. A life-threatening storm is flooding the United Kingdom. The Antarctic-winter sea ice has failed to form—a million square kilometers less than the previous lowest maximum set in 1986.

The Los Angeles Times is launching Climate California, a new section led by editor Monte Morin drawing from the newspaper’s impressive roster of environmental, culture, science, health, and business reporters, including Emily Alpert Reyes, Tyrone Beason, Tony Briscoe, Ian James, Russ Mitchell, Corinne Purtill, Melody Petersen, Susanne Rust, Louis Sahagún, Hayley Smith, Alex Wigglesworth, and Rosanna Xia. Sammy Roth, who writes their Boiling Point newsletter, will also pen a weekly column.

A Rice’s whale killed by an ingested shard of plastic in 2019.

WHALE OF A FIGHT: Amid a court fight over how much the Department of Interior is allowed to protect the critically endangered Rice’s whales from offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, their only habitat, the Fifth Circuit postponed a mandatory oil and gas lease sale from today to November 8th. The state of Louisiana, the American Petroleum Institute, Axios sponsor Chevron, and Shell are suing the federal government to force the lease sale and limit the protections for the whales, of whom there are fewer than 100 alive.

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It’s the closing day of the Department of Energy’s Demonstrate Deploy Decarbonize 2023 conference. Federal and industry officials are huddling on everything from industrial decarbonization, grid modernization, and the boondoggle of direct air capture of greenhouse pollution. Sierra Club president Ben Jealous is speaking at 2 pm.

This morning, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chaired by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) is holding what looks to be a quite positive and reasonable hearing on the reauthorization of the EPA’s Brownfields program, which helps revitalize industrial sites that may have contamination but don’t reach Superfund levels. Witnesses include EPA’s Barry Breen, Elizabeth, N.J. mayor Christian Bollwage, the National Association of Counties’ Tammy Shifflett Tincher, National Brownfields Coalition’s Lesly Melendez, and brownfields developer Pat Ford.

The House Financial Services committee is grilling Securities and Exchange Commission Gary Gensler. As with the recent Senate Banking hearing, it’s likely Gensler will be pushed on the SEC’s proposed climate risk rule.

The chair of the Senate Banking subcommittee on insurance is Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is now under indictment for accepting literal wads of cash and gold bars in exchange for aiding the Egyptian government. Calls for him to resign are coming from inside the House (and Senate). So Wednesday’s hearing on the state of flood insurance in America with witness Doug Quinn of the American Policyholder Association, who lost his home to Superstorm Sandy but received a meager insurance payout, has been “postponed.”

In the afternoon, Senate Indian Affairs chair Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) holds a hearing on water access in native communities with federal officials, tribal representatives, and law professor and Navajo water-rights advocate Heather Tanana.

Hearings on the Hill:

Climate Action Today:

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