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The Week in Climate Hearings: Fire Blossoms

Turning back the clocks with wildfires, mayors in Miami

The indicator tree, which reliably blooms ahead of the other cherry trees around the Tidal Basin, is starting to flower as of March 8, 2024. Credit: David Coleman

Thanks to the trillion-dollar fossil-fuel juggernaut that every year pumps billions of tons of greenhouse pollution into the air and sea and hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of politicians, think tanks, media organizations, lobbyists, and lawyers in Washington D.C., the cherry trees of Washington D.C. are on track to have one of their earliest peak blooms in history this year. As the biggest wildfire in Texas history continues to smolder, Congress holds two hearings on the growing fossil-fueled wildfire threat this week.

Clocks across the United States (except for most of Arizona) were turned back an hour, in a collective assault on our health and safety, increasing strokes, heart attacks, cancer, depression, suicides, accidents, and medical errors. As Hill Heat reported two years ago, Daylight Saving Time is grossly misaligned with the solar day, chronically disrupting circadian clocks. Despite the clear medical consensus in favor of making standard time permanent, Senate Democrats such as Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who consistently decry science denial when it comes to climate change, persist in advocating for the harmful imposition of permanent daylight saving time.

Today, the White House released President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2025 budget proposal, even as the FY2024 budget remains incompletely passed. As indicated in his State of the Union address, Biden is emphasizing pocketbook issues, with weatherization assistance the most climate-friendly of his top priorities. Big Oil is mentioned in the context of closing corporate tax loopholes.

The Aspen Ideas: Climate Festival and Mayors Climate Leadership Forum are taking place this week in increasingly flooded Miami; speakers on Monday include Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, Secretary of Energy Gina McCarthy, and former White House official Gina McCarthy; Tuesday has a plenary with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The mayors of New Orleans, Cleveland, Madison, New Bedford, Jacksonville, and many other cities are also attending.

Tuesday, March 12

In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) marks up three bipartisan pieces of legislation:

The Senate Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) discusses growing U.S. manufacturing through the tax code and the uneven climate implications of Biden’s legislative legacy (CHIPS/IIJA/IRA) with solar-panel CEO Mark Widmer, petrochemical CEO Peter Huntsman, and United Steelworkers director Anna Fendley.

Also at 10 am, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee run by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is holding a hearing to examine the findings and recommendations of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. The two commissioners testifying are forestry industry representative Cody Desautel, and Denver Water scientist Madelene McDonald. Also testifying are Agriculture climate official Meryl Harrell and Interior budget official Joan Mooney and Wyoming state forester Kelly Norris.

At 10:15 am, Budget chair Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) receives Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young to discuss the president’s fiscal year 2025 budget proposal.

House Republicans stay on message with their re-branding of fighting renewable electricity in the name of “grid reliability” (see previous hearings in February and last September). The House Oversight energy subcommittee, with chair Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and ranking member Cori Bush (D-Mo.), holds a hearing at 10 am on the reliability and security of America’s electrical grid with polluter lawyer and Trump FERC appointee James Danly of Skadden Arps, lifelong Koch-network troll Travis Fisher, now at Cato, and grid security expert Jonathon Monken.

Also at 10 am, in a meeting rescheduled from February, Transportation’s emergency management subcommittee interrogates FEMA head Deanne Criswell about the propriety of FEMA being engaged with emergency management other than climate disasters, such as the Covid and border crises, and supporting the resettlement of Afghan refugees.

At 2 pm, the Europe subcommittee of House Foreign Affairs holds a hearing also rescheduled from February discussing the Russian nuclear energy sector.

Thursday, March 14

On Pi Day, the Senate Homeland Security Committee gathers federal, state and local officials for a hearing on the increasing wildfire threat, including U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell, GAO disaster response official Christopher Currie, and officials from Nevada, Utah, and Arizona at 10 am.

At 10:30 am, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reviews U.S. strategy in the Pacific Islands region with State official Daniel Kritenbrink, Defense official Ely Ratner, and USAID official Michael Schiffer.

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