Polluters Over People
H.R.1, Russian roulette, and other things to not think about too much
PRESENTED BY PIZZA NEEDS CITATION
With the temperature hitting an eye-popping 83°, Thursday, March 23rd was peak bloom for the Tidal Basin cherry trees, two weeks before the historical average. Just enjoy the early beauty; don’t think about it too much.
Other things not to think about too much: Twenty-six people are dead after massive tornadoes struck Mississippi and Alabama as part of a massive storm on Friday night, obliterating the majority-Black towns of Rolling Fork and Silver City in the Mississippi delta.
Europe’s parched winter is presaging a deadly summer of wildfire. And summer begins in March: Spain’s first major wildfire of the year raged in the eastern Valencia region on Friday, destroying over 7,000 acres.
On the upside, meet Scotland’s new leader, Humza Yousaf:
“My top priority as your next First Minister would be to build the energy security Scotland so desperately needs through a revolutionary increase in our green energy capacity.”
THE WEEK ON THE HILL
It’s another busy week for climate hearings on Capitol Hill, as House Republicans move to hold a floor vote on their cartoonish pro-polluter bill, H.R. 1. The legislation, which Republicans have dubbed the Lower Energy Costs Act and Democrats are calling the Polluters Over People Act, is an omnibus of radical giveaways to extractive industries, primarily oil and gas. The bill repeals incentives for electrification, weakens water and air pollution rules, mandates rapid oil and gas leasing on land and sea, repeals the tax on methane pollution, eliminates the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, provides carve-outs from pollution regulation for all fossil-fuel infrastructure, and eliminates controls on the export and import of liquefied natural gas.
This afternoon, the House Rules Committee began its hearing on the bill and the amendments filed by members; the meeting on the amendments was gaveled to a close at 9 pm. Republicans will stay on message in committee hearings this week promoting small businesses that happen to be fracking businesses and blaming Biden’s energy policy for inflation.
While House Republicans host a fossil-fuel fest for their funders, Senate Democrats are chairing several hearings on the costs of our dependence on petrochemicals:
On Wednesday at 10 am, Budget chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) chairs “Left Holding the Bag: The Cost of Oil Dependence in a Low-Carbon World.” Witnesses in the all-white-male panel include energy-industry analyst Claudio Galimberti, a former Shell analyst who has run the numbers on the “energy transition” away from fossil fuels; Dr. Gregor Semieniuk, the lead author of the journal article “Stranded Fossil-Fuel Assets Translate to Major Losses for Investors in Advanced Economies;” Daniel Raimi, an energy sociologist at the fossil-industry-funded think tank Resources for the Future who has mapped fossil-industry dependence;2 and the Republican witnesses, climate-denier-cum-industry-lobbyists Benjamin Zycher and Lou Pugliaresi.
Also at 10 am, Environment chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) hosts a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s updated Good Neighbor Rule, which places new on limits ground-level ozone—that is, smog pollution—based on what happens to downwind states. Testifying are Dr. David Hill, the chair of the American Lung Association; the environmental chiefs of Maryland, Arizona, and Mississippi; and Paul Noe, the top lawyer for the polluters in the American Forest and Paper Association.
On Thursday morning, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chair of the Environment subcommittee on toxic waste, convenes a hearing on the dangerously underexamined crisis of the exponential growth in plastic production and the ensuing immortal toxic waste. Scientists Arvind Ravikumar, an oil and gas industry expert, Chelsea Rochman, who studies microplastics contamination, and Hota GangaRao, an expert in building materials, will testify.
On Tuesday, East Palestine’s member of Congress, Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), the chair of the environment and manufacturing subcommittee of the House energy committee, holds a hearing on the government response to the Norfolk Southern disaster, with officials from the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA. Trumper Max Miller (R-Ohio), chair of House Science’s environment subcommittee, holds a hearing promoting the Weather Act, which is pushing the privatization of weather satellites and data collection. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) convenes highway-construction lobbyists for a hearing on the implementation of the infrastructure act.
On Thursday, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) chairs an Agriculture subcommittee hearing on the Farm Bill and forests, where the threat of global warming to our forests will be used as justification to subsidize the timber industry accelerating logging.
And the cavalcade of budget hearings continues:
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack testifies before House Agriculture on Tuesday, with both the Farm Bill and the $32.6 billion USDA budget on tap; $12 billion of the budget is seen by the department as climate-related. He appears before Senate appropriators on Wednesday and House appropriators on Thursday.
Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland goes before House appropriators on Tuesday and Senate appropriators on Wednesday to discuss her department’s $18.9 billion budget request. Though most of the department’s budget 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.
Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen presents the department’s international programs budget, including $1.42 billion for international climate change and environmental funds, on Wednesday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland presents the $39.7 billion Department of Justice budget request to Senate appropriators on Tuesday; a meager $156.5 million is for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The heads of the Army Corps of Engineers ($7.4 billion) and Bureau of Reclamation ($1.4 billion) present the administration plan to deal with rapidly growing drought and floods to House appropriators on Wednesday. Members present their requests for earmarks for those agencies and the Department of Energy Tuesday morning.
National Park Service director Charles Sams ($3.8 billion), Bureau of Land Management director Tracy Stone-Manning ($1.7 billion), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Martha Williams ($4.1 billion) defend the conservation agencies’ budgets before House appropriators, also on Wednesday.
The chairs of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities Exchange Commission, both of which have begun investigating climate risk, appear before House appropriators on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.
Members of Congress present earmark requests for Commerce, Justice, and Science (including NOAA, the National Science Foundation, and NASA) on Tuesday morning.
And then there’s that small chunk of the budget ($842 billion) going to the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs chair Mark Milley testify before Senate Armed Services on Tuesday and House Armed Services on Wednesday. There are also hearings for the Air Force ($215 billion) and the Space Force ($30 billion); the Navy and Marine Corps ($255.8 billion); and the Army ($185.5 billion).
Shannon Osaka’s Washington Post piece criticizing climate “doomism” has this optimistic take from Zeke Hausfather:
“It’s not like 1.9C is not an existential risk and 2.1C is. It’s more that we’re playing Russian roulette with the climate.”
That’s a relief!
Raimi prepared his master’s thesis on the potential social impacts of fracking in North Carolina for state officials including David Rouzer (R-N.C.), the sea-level-rise denying politician who is now the chair of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.