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The Week of Climate Hearings: Fire, Flood, and Drought

The push for Manchin's dirty deal continues, as GOP try to roll back Biden advances

Sunday was Mother’s Day. The Category-5 Cyclone Mocha devastated Bangladesh and Myanmar, striking the world’s largest refugee camp with gusts nearly reaching 200mph. Local records for the hottest temperature ever recorded in May were set throughout Oregon, while it was hotter in British Columbia than Las Vegas. Nearly 20,000 Albertans were forced to evacuate their homes by uncontrolled wildfires. And over 2,500 people are still missing, with 400 confirmed dead, as rescuers continued to sift through the wreckage left by catastrophic floods in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mother’s Day was founded 155 years ago in the wake of the death and destruction of the American Civil War by women calling for world peace. We are not there yet.

Congress is holding many hearings this week about the war with Russia and gearing up for war with China. While these certainly have major implications on climate policy — not the least of which is the potential for solar geoengineering via nuclear winter — below we address the hearings in the more traditional “climate” silos of environmental and energy policy.

Tuesday, March 16

In the morning, House Energy, Climate, & Grid Security Subcommittee Chair Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) is marking up the Save Our Gas Stoves Act (H.R. 1640), to prohibit the implementation of proposed energy conservation standards for stoves, which, by the way, would only call for more efficient gas stoves.

On Tuesday, there are two hearings on federal wildfire policy. In the morning, the Forestry subcommittee of House Agriculture, chaired by Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) with ranking member Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.), host U.S. Forest Service chief Randy Moore to discuss the fossil-fueled wildfire crisis in the National Forest system. In the afternoon, Forest Service Deputy Chief Jaelith Hall-Rivera and Interior’s Wildland Fire director Jeff Rupert, followed by a second panel of firefighting and forest policy experts, testify on the challenges of wildfires before the Federal Lands subcommittee of House Natural Resources, chaired by Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) with ranking member Joe Neguse (D-Colo.). The Republicans of course would like this to not be about global warming somehow.

There are also two hearings on Tuesday about water infrastructure: climate denier Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) chairs a hearing on the Clean Water Act in the morning and in the afternoon Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) receives testimony from water resource managers and conservation advocates on water management projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Fiscal Year 2024 budget hearings continue in the committees of jurisdiction: NASA administrator Bill Nelson heads to the Senate Science committee to discuss the agency’s $27.2 billion budget; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Martha Williams presents a $4.1 billion budget request to the Senate Environment committee, and the Republicans on the House subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will harangue Bureau of Land Management director Tracy Stone-Manning and Office of Surface Mining deputy director Glenda Owens about their budgets and why they’re not giving fossil-fuel and mining companies every inch of federal land for drilling.

In the afternoon, Senate Foreign Relations receives testimony from the career civil servants nominated to be the ambassadors for Oman, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

Wednesday, May 17

Last week, White House climate advisor John Podesta went to a fossil-industry-backed think tank, using Bill McKibben’s good name to back Sen. Joe Manchin’s dirty pipeline-permitting plan with some greenwashing about clean energy.

Wednesday morning, Senate Environment chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) holds a hearing on clean-energy permitting reform with White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Brenda Mallory, Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council director Christine Harada, and Office of Management and Budget deputy director Jason Miller.

Mallory’s new lead on environmental permitting, as of May 22nd, will be Hill veteran Ana Unruh Cohen, of late the staff director for the now defunct House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Carper is working on his own version of a permit reform plan, as are several Senate Republicans. According to Roll Call’s David Jordan, Manchin’s “goal is to have a compromise bill on the floor before the chamber leaves town for its August recess.”

In the House, Republicans mark up legislation to overturn Biden’s recent protection of Minnesota wilderness from mining (H.Con.Res. 34); to reverse the Cottonwood decision requiring the U.S. Forest Service to reinitiate Endangered Species Act consultation on completed forest plans when a new species is listed (H.R. 200); to use wildfires as an excuse to increase logging near endangered sequoias (H.R. 2989); and to override pollution controls on fire retardant (H.R. 1586).

In the House Oversight committee, subcommittee chair Pat Fallon (R-Texas) goes up against ranking member Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in a hearing on the Biden administration’s electric vehicle push. Meanwhile, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) chairs a hearing on FEMA’s strategic five-year plan for disaster preparedness, and Tracey Mann (R-Ks.) hosts CAFO lobbyists.

In the afternoon, Senate Foreign Relations interviews Jennifer M. Adams, the foreign-service nominee to be ambassador to Cabo Verde, an archipelagic nation trying to go fully renewable.

Thursday, May 18

On Thursday morning, the Senate Finance committee chaired by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) holds a hearing on the energy tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, with BlueGreen Alliance’s Katie Harris, former Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel Simmons, center-right wonk Philip Rossetti of R Street Institute, and Pittsburgh business advocate Patty Horvatich.

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