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The Week in Climate Hearings: A Very Merry Procrastination Shutdown

Microplastics, geologic hydrogen, and frighteningly fiery EVs

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La., no relation)

It’s still February.

With the partial government shutdown looming on Friday, members of Congress are grudgingly getting back to work this week. The U.S. Senate is in full swing on Tuesday, but the U.S. House’s only full scheduled day of work is Thursday.

President Joe Biden is going to try to get Congress to get a move on, with a White House meeting Tuesday morning with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La., no relation) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

In case you’re tracking, September 30th was the original government funding deadline, which was pushed to November 17th by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for which he was defenestrated by his caucus. Right before the November deadline, the novice Speaker Johnson broke up the continuing resolution into two parts, with January 19th and February 2nd as deadlines; right before January 19th, Congress set new deadlines of March 1st and March 8th. And now we’re only days away from that, with the House Republican caucus still in near-total deadlock.

Leaders of both parties agreed on topline numbers for the FY2024 budget months ago, but the spirit of procrastination is in their hearts.

Meanwhile, there are some hearings of interest this week, including Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-Ore.) hearing on microplastics, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) celebrating geologic hydrogen, and the latest Republican attack on electric vehicles.

Wildfire threatening the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 25, 2024.

Tuesday, February 27

At 11:30 am, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is holding a business meeting in executive session to vote on the long-delayed nominations of acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su for Secretary of Labor, Moshe Marvit for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and Stephen Ravas as the Inspector General for Americorps. The mine safety commission has only had four members for years now; Marvit would bring it to a full complement.

At 2:30 pm, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) holds his next hearing on the plastics industry, with a focus on understanding the presence of microplastics in water. The witnesses include the ecotoxicologist Dr. Susanne M. Brander of Oregon State, freshwater plastic pollution expert Dr. Sherri A. Mason of Penn State Behrend, and membrane filtration expert Brent Alspach.

Bonnie Monteleone’s rendering of The Great Wave by the Japanese artist Hokusai made with ocean debris

Wednesday, February 28

At 10 am, the Senate Energy Committee chaired by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will discuss developing geologic hydrogen in the United States with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) director Evelyn Wang, U.S. Geological Survey petroleum geologist Dr. Geoffrey Ellis, and hydrogen mining company Koloma CEO Pete Johnson (no relation). Ellis is bullish on mining hydrogen. Hill Heat will be interested to discover if anyone mentions the problem that hydrogen is a powerful greenhouse pollutant.

Also at 10 am, the Environment and Public Works Committee interviews Army Corps of Engineers officials on their priorities for the Water Resources Development Act, and the Commerce Committee will interview Federal Maritime Commissioners Daniel Maffei and Rebecca Dye, both of whom have been renominated to serve a further term.

At 2:30 pm, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will participate in a rare Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, the first of the year.

Thursday, February 29

At 10:30 am, Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.), chair of the House Science oversight subcommitee, will hold a hearing on electric vehicle fires and first responders, following up on a GOP hearing earlier this month on lithium battery fires. The witnesses are San Bernardino County fire chief Dan Munsey, and UL Electrochemical Safety Research Institute director Dr. Judy Jeevarajan. Strangely, House Republicans are not holding hearings on any of the other threats first responders face thanks to the fossil-fuel industry, such as extreme heat, wildfires, exploding gasoline engines, exploding gas pipelines, exploding oil refineries, or, say, the foot of rain that struck Obernolte’s district last month.

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