Time for a break

A look back at the week in climate hearings


I have to admit, I’m ready for summer break.

After all, as President Joe Biden said last week, “every single environmental organization endorsed me.” So the work of all us climate change people is done, right?1

If that argument isn’t good enough, then maybe we need White House climate advisor John Podesta’s zen-like acceptance of the inevitability of climate disaster as an excuse for not trying to stop it.

So I’m looking forward to some disappearing-glacier martinis with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and definitely-just-a-friend-who-happens-to-be-a-billionaire-with-an-extra-spot-on-his-private-jet-for-climate-end-times-tourism Paul Singer.

“Scalia prepares glacier ice martinis,” photo credit Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections, via ProPublica via Today in Tabs

Unfortunately,2 Congress has actually been at work this week before a much-needed3 two-week hiatus.

Not to worry, though; the House floor was again dominated by salvos from the hard-right House Freedom Caucus in overturning Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) authority over the order of business, this time through the use of privileged resolutions4. Last week, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (Tic-Fla.) introduced a censure of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for his investigation of Donald Trump as a privileged resolution; it was tabled with the backing of 20 Republicans. This week Luna introduced a similar resolution (H.Res. 521) and Republican leadership buckled, backing its consideration. The censure then passed on a party-line vote on Wednesday.

Next up was Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (Q-Colo.) privileged resolution (H.Res. 503) to impeach President Biden. This time, House leadership was better prepared, wrapping it in a House Rules resolution (H.Res. 529) to refer the impeachment measure to committee, which passed Thursday on a party-line vote.

So that’s the fun on the floor. Let’s look back at committee hearings, which had a bit more meat to them.5

Wednesday, June 21

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) hosted a compelling hearing on the costs of fossil-fuel industry’s systematic campaign of climate disinformation, with climate-policy historian Naomi Oreskes and former George W. Bush administration ethics czar Richard Painter. Oreskes testified about how Sen. Scoop Jackson (D-Wash.) learned about global warming from Beat poet Allen Ginsburg in 1969, and Painter called out Harvard environmental professor-cum-Conoco Phillips board member Jody Freeman. Republicans invited liars-for-hire Roger Pielke Jr. and Scott Walter.

Grassley’s first question to RPJr. was about how he got dumped from FiveThirtyEight as an “expert” on sliming climate scientists thanks in part to the reporting of my former ThinkProgress colleague Joe Romm.

Meanwhile, Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) led a hearing to question Environmental Protection Agency official Joe Goffman on the EPA’s proposed tailpipe standards. An Energy & Commerce hearing promoted by the GOP as an investigation of how the Chinese Communist Party was getting federal battery grants turned out to be a tame affair, as David Howell, the Department of Energy official testifying from the new Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains, explained that no Communists were getting grants.

House Natural Resources advanced several pieces of legislation, including bipartisan bills to combat Rapid Ohia Death, manage rock climbing in federal lands, and issue electronic duck stamps. Republicans pushed through bills promoting lead poisoning and blocking a new BLM conservation rule.

Thursday, July 22

The marquee hearing was Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) calling out the Brazilian meat mega-giant JBS6 for cattle-laundering as a means of destroying the Amazon rainforest. JBS Global Chief Sustainability Officer Jason Weller, who coincidentally used to be chief of the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, testified that “we take our role and responsibility in the global food system very seriously,” and offered to take senators on a Brazilian rainforest junket. The murderously corrupt conglomerate could also have sent senior vice president of public policy and government affairs Karla Thieman, who used to be USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s chief policy advisor and chief of staff.

Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans hosted EPA’s Goffman and a panel of fuel-industry lobbyists for a legislative hearing on a suite of bills to restrict EPA regulation of gas-powered vehicles; hosted Army Corps and Tennessee Valley Authority officials to discuss the FY2024 budget for their projects; discussed lithium mines with the top State and USAID officials for Africa; and held a legislative hearing on bills to transfer federal lands and limit the environmental permitting process for cell towers.

The big work, though, was the full House Appropriations Committee’s markup of the $826.5 billion defense appropriations bill in the morning and the $52.4 billion energy and water bill in the afternoon. The defense spending bill is above the president’s request, while the energy bill is 12 percent below. GOP appropriators systematically opposed climate funding throughout.

During the energy and water markup, Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) trashed California’s and Biden’s renewable energy policies before celebrating the bill’s subsidies for managing the catastrophic droughts and floods in his district. In contrast, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) spoke compellingly on the urgency of fighting the fossil-fueled climate crisis, recognizing New York City has been battered by everything from wildfire smoke to Superstorm Sandy, with his constituents hit by chronic asthma. Views differ!

Friday, July 23

On Friday morning, House appropriators marked up the $52.5 billion foreign policy budget, a drastic 24 percent below the president’s request. Again, funding for climate programs was systematically forbidden; the GOP went so far to state that the U.S. could not support renewable energy projects in Africa unless it financed fossil-fuel projects first.

Chair Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) mocked the “boondoggle of climate change spending” and called out climate envoy John Kerry for “taxpayer-funded trips in jets to coronations, royal weddings, and other sorties to frankly elite capitals around the world,” as opposed to the middlebrow capitals.

“Six hundred million people are already living in areas that are unfit for human life due to climate change; they’re already experiencing life-threatening heat waves, water shortages, and coastal flooding,” ranking member Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) retorted. “We can pretend it all doesn’t exist, but we are all going to have to live with the consequences.”

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1 Apparently, yes. As Dave Karpf writes, the Sierra Club Student Coalition has been shuttered.

2 For me

4 Privileged resolutions allow individual members to interrupt the normal order of business for a vote, but are usually tabled because they represent an end-run around leadership. See House Rules IX:2 (a)(1).

5 In particular, at the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

6 José Batista Sobrinho, not the Journal of British Studies.

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