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Sponsored by Chevron: Cherry blossoms in February
The Times fluffs a Koch, East Palestine, Mastercard, leeks
PRESENTED BY AURORAE
Lawmakers, such as they are, have returned to the nation’s capital, where the cherry trees are already starting to bloom, because February is the new April. The Cherry Blossom Festival begins March 20th, likely well after the peak bloom date, which will arrive at its earliest in history thanks to the untiring work of festival sponsors such as Amazon, which rakes in millions helping the oil and gas industry, Chase, the world’s top fossil-fuel financier, and oil giant Chevron, whose profits doubled last year.
The Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives are committed to accelerating the end of winter with a bevy of bills to benefit the oil and gas industry and other climate polluters. Let’s take a look at this week’s climate hearings:
In a pair of House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee meetings, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) chairs a markup of eight bills backing the fossil-fuel and mining industries, from repealing all restrictions on the import and export of natural gas to prohibiting a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing; and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) chairs a markup of seven bills rolling back pollution controls on the fossil-fuel and mining industries, from repealing the new methane pollution tax to blocking proposed hydrofluoric acid regulations for oil refineries.
The House Natural Resources Committee is hosting a pair of hearings with a parade of industry lobbyists in support of the TAP American Energy Act and Permitting for Mining Needs Act as well as Rep. Garret Graves’ (R-La.) BUILDER Act, which would gut the National Environmental Policy Act permit process. The Democratic witnesses include environmental law professor Mark Squillace and environmental justice activist John Beard, Jr. of the Port Arthur Community Action Network.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) is chairing a markup of more polluter priorities, particularly H.J.Res. 47, which would roll back Biden’s new Waters of the United States protections for wetlands, and H.R. 1152, which would largely exempt fossil-fuel pipelines from the Clean Water Act.
Agriculture chair GT Thompson (R-Pa.) hosts six white men who all happen to be agribusiness lobbyists to discuss the future of American agriculture.
On Wednesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) holds his first climate-focused hearing as the new Budget chair, looking at the threat of climate change to coastal communities. The Democratic witnesses are coastal risk expert Sean Becketti, flood-risk activist Matthew Eby, and Rhode Island town manager Kate Michaud. The Republican witnesses are long-time climate denier Marlo Lewis Jr. and newcomer Jessica Weinkle, an acolyte of climate denier Roger Pielke, Jr.
Also on Wednesday, the heads of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and the U.S. Forest Service testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee on conservation and forestry programs as part of the ongoing Farm Bill reauthorization process. And Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) tries again with the nomination of Joe Goffman to be the top air pollution official at the Environmental Protection Agency. He has been the acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation throughout 2022 as his nomination has been blocked by Republicans.
The New York Times editors placed a fluff piece penned by Brooks Barnes praising the “easygoing and upbeat” billionaire petrochemical scion Elizabeth Koch, the daughter of climate-denial robber baron Charles Koch, as their lead story in the Sunday Business Section. Brooks somehow failed to mention that the neuroscientist who praised Koch’s work is on her payroll.
Reporters dig into Norfolk Southern’s practices of deadly profiteering that led to the East Palestine train disaster:
The Intercept’s Daniel Boguslaw and Lee Fang review how Norfolk Southern easily weathered a deadly 2005 chlorine-train derailment after dismissing the “emotional evocations of ‘deadly chemicals,’ ‘mangled metal,’ or ‘deadly liquid chlorine.’”
Norfolk Southern allows its central office to tell rail crews to ignore hazard alerts from train track sensors, ProPublica’s Topher Sanders and Dan Schwartz discover.
More Perfect Union’s Eric Gardner finds that Norfolk Southern has doubled profit margins and increased shareholder dividends by 4500% while slashing its headcount by 33% since 2000.
In These Times’ Max Alvarez discovers the details of the rail profiteering process in an interview with Ohio rail worker and labor official Matt Weaver.
And on the ground in East Palestine:
On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board released its initial report on the derailment: “This was 100% preventable.”
On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources increased their estimate of fish and other wildlife killed by the disaster from 35,000 to over 43,000.
On Friday, Ohio law firm Johnson & Johnson filed a class-action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern on behalf of local residents.
On Saturday, teams from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency began going door-to-door to check on residents and offer support.
“The industry needs to be brought back under control,” locomotive engineer Michael Paul Lindsey tells Fortune’s Tristan Bove. But as railroad union official Gregory Hynes tells Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman: “Nothing has changed with the freight railroads in America since this accident happened.” The Jacobin’s Alex Press writes: “The rail carriers have shown time and again that they cannot be trusted with such critical infrastructure.”
Win some, lose some more: The EPA has notified Salt River Project that it plans to deny the utility’s request to continue dumping coal ash into an unlined pond at its Coronado Generating Station coal-fired plant in eastern Arizona. The EPA recently gave a Chevron refinery the green light to create fuel from discarded plastics using a wildly toxic process as part of a “biofuel” initiative. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finalized a plan to offer drilling rights on more than 70 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas companies at the end of March.
The United Kingdom is running out of leeks.
For everything else, there’s Mastercard: President Joe Biden has nominated former president and CEO of MasterCard Ajay Banga to replace climate denier David Malpass as head of the World Bank.
And on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes on multiple Biden nominees, including current top Mastercard lobbyist (and former ambassador to India) Richard Verma to be Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources for the Department of State, and ExxonMobil and Russian pipeline lawyer Richard Weiner to be Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has placed holds on these nominees, though not out of any concern for their business ties.