Great Balls of Plastic Fire!

Also: the Green New Dealers are back; Elon's Earth Day celebration


This morning, Elon Musk helped honor Earth Day by exploding a 390-foot methane-fueled phallus over a home of endangered ocelots and sea turtles.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) at the Green New Deal anniversary press conference today.

At the U.S. Capitol, Congressional Green New Dealers held a less carbon-intensive Earth Day celebration at noon, marking the fourth anniversary of the introduction of the Green New Deal resolution with a press conference to announce the next generation of Green New Deal legislation. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are unveiling climate-justice guidelines for the implementation of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, and Markey and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) are introducing the Green New Deal for Health. Other participants included Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), and Becca Balint (D-Vt.), as well as progressive leaders Kaniela Ing of the Green New Deal Network, Sara Nelson, president of Association of Flight Attendants, SEIU’s Dr. Colleen Achong, and Jacqui Patterson, executive director of the Chisholm Legacy Project.

A fire Tuesday at an abandoned plastics recycling plant in Richmond, Indiana, forced the evacuation of 2,000 nearby residents. Credit: Kevin Shook

Yesterday, the fire at a complex of abandoned warehouses of waste plastics in Richmond, Indiana was finally declared out, more than a week after the warehouse exploded into toxic flames and black smoke on Tuesday, April 11th. In the following days, “EPA air monitors detected hydrogen cyanide, benzene, chlorine, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds,” as well as chrysotile asbestos, from our nation’s latest major airborne toxic event.

This is Richmond’s East Palestine moment,” said City Councilman Ron Oler, one of the city officials who had been trying without success to get warehouse owner Seth Smith to clean up the overstuffed facility since 2019.1

Over two thousand residents of the eastern Indiana city were forced to evacuate from the toxic smoke, emitted from the incineration of 70 million pounds of petrochemical-based plastics and the asbestos-lined warehouses.

At a September 2019 hearing of Richmond’s Unsafe Building Commission, Smith admitted conditions at the plant had gotten “out of control,” and that one of the buildings at the site had no fire extinguishing system. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration even “did a smoke plume study to help officials which areas may need evacuation if a fire broke out,” Fox 59’s Steve Brown reports.

As CNN’s Paul P. Murphy reported, in 2022, “the city seized two of the three land parcels the recycling plant sits on after Smith failed to pay property taxes.”

But the site, where plastics that had been getting shipped to China for recycling until that country shut down its international recycling program, was not remediated.

And, as is now becoming grimly commonplace, the expected disaster has now come to pass.

Firefighters spray water on the smoldering fire. Credit: Michael Conroy

Millionaires are burning through the 1.5°C carbon budget all on their own. The U.S. government has offered $3.5 billion in grants for experimental direct air capture technology. As the Peruvian Andean ice disappears, so do the communities which have thrived in the mountains for thousands of years. The climate-disaster-driven insurance crisis that has swept across the Gulf Coast is spilling into Texas, where increasingly scarce property coverage has forced tens of thousands of coastal homeowners to buy policies from a state-chartered insurance program.

This morning on the Hill, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) chaired a hearing on conservation programs in the Farm Bill.

Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge presented a $73.3 billion budget to Senate appropriators led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). 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.”

The Department of Energy is seeking a $52 billion budget. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to present the budget, a week after her department approved a proposal to export liquefied natural gas from Alaska to Asia.

House appropriators reviewed the $3.7 billion budget for Air Force and Space Force construction.

Hearings on the Hill:

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1 Richmond’s congressional representative, multimillionaire Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), is himself a delinquent owner of unremediated toxic facilities; in his case it’s his family’s dozens of abandoned gas stations, which has cost the state of Indiana at least $21 million to clean up.

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