When Cows Kill

Shingle Mountain, Cancer Alley, and the Olive Garden


I feel like a real journalist today, because I called a Senate office to confirm a hearing schedule and I am letting my coverage be swayed by a corporate public-relations push. I received a blind pitch for the new Gridlock podcast, a utility-insider-interview series on how how our electric grid is under assault from fossil-fueled global warming. It’s being produced by the utility-pole-and-coal-tar company Koppers (read more about the toxicity of treated lumber). I’ve read the transcripts for their first two episodes, featuring former Republican FERC commissioner Nora Mead Brownell and Argonne Labs’ Mark Petri and Tom Wall. If you’re into wonky podcasts, this is a good one!

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm is traveling her home state of Michigan today, touring Michigan State University for a ribbon cutting at the new Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and visiting the community development nonprofit Focus: HOPE in Detroit, with various Michigan elected officials including the vulnerable Rep. Elissa Slotkin of the 8th District.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan is also on tour, heading to Wilmington, Delaware with the state’s three-member Congressional delegation to Teen Warehouse, the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and city’s broken sewer main. Meanwhile, Regan’s agency is looking like it will continue to ignore its own expert panel and fail to tighten smog standards.

CLIMATE HAWKS IN FLIGHT: Margaret Klein Salamon’s Climate Emergency Fund is sponsoring the wildly effective Just Stop Oil activists, whose non-violent blockades have been disrupting England petrol distribution. She’s also in the New York Times, with an essay on moving past climate despair and into action.

“Connecticut lawmakers voted Thursday to officially set a target of 2040 for having a carbon-free electricity supply.” Last week, the New York state legislature passed key environmental justice legislation.

Being anti-science is newly part of many rural Americans’ identity, which is why national operatives should pay attention to the advice of progressive climate hawk Chloe Maxmin, who has twice won office in Maine to represent rural districts while championing the Green New Deal.

John Oliver features interviews with Dr. Robert Bullard and Jacqueline Patterson in an excellent segment on environmental racism in the United States, including Shingle Mountain and Cancer Alley, where industrial polluters do the same kind of thing that killed the Brontë sisters.

The fossil-fueled desertification of Ethiopia is driving dramatic increases in forced child marriage, as the girls’ desperate parents seek dowries to help them survive years of record drought.

The Olive Garden is trying to hold Puerto Rico’s corrupt power authority LUMA accountable for its April power outages, suing for $310 million in damages. Also involved in the lawsuit: Applebee’s, Red Lobster, and Sizzler, seeking justice for breadsticks and cheddar biscuits if not for the people of Puerto Rico.

The American southwest is burning up: “With months left before its fire season typically peaks in June, more acres have already burned in New Mexico than in seven of the last eight years.”

SENATE SESSIONS: The Senate is in session this week but the House is not. The Senate committees are busy with President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget. In Senate Appropriations, on Tuesday Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-N.H.) commerce subcommittee reviews the NASA and NSF budget, and Sen. John Tester’s (D-Mont.) subcommittee reviews the Department of Defense budget. On Wednesday, the Forest Service budget is before Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and the Department of Energy before Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Granholm will also be defending the Department of Energy budget request before Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.V.) energy committee on Thursday. Secretary Pete Buttigieg will go before Commerce Committee for the Department of Transportation budget request, and the Foreign Relations Committee looks at the State Department budget, both on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Manchin’s committee finally votes on the nomination of Maria Robinson, a clean-energy policy expert and local elected official in Framingham, Mass. (and former Jay Inslee congressional staffer), to be Assistant Secretary of Energy for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. Robinson was nominated last September. At that meeting, the committee will also mark up legislation to add shooting ranges to each of the 154 national forests, protect the Pecos River watershed from mining, and to expand various other wilderness and conservation areas.

The shooting-ranges-in-our-National-Forests bill is from Manchin, of course.

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will mark up this year’s Water Resources Development Act (text) and vote to promote Benny Wagner to be the Tennessee Valley Authority’s inspector general. Senate Foreign Relations will vote on the Kigali Amendment to cut hydrofluorocarbons, super-greenhouse pollutants, and Senate Indian Affairs reviews the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill for native communities.

On Thursday, Senate Judiciary looks at the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act, which would allow the Department of Justice to bring antitrust suits against OPEC. The American oil industry opposes this legislation, with the argument that they don’t want governments meddling in their global affairs.

And on Friday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will hold a field hearing in Plymouth, Mass. on the decommissioning process for nuclear plants such as Plymouth’s Pilgrim Nuclear Station, which was closed in 2019.

THE BEEF THAT KILLS: The private GHGSat, which has three high-resolution methane-detection satellites in orbit, found a plume of methane pollution from a cattle feedlot in California’s Joaquin Valley, some of the first direct agriculture methane pollution detection done from space.

Terrence McCoy and Júlia Ledur are the bylined reporters on a heart-stopping doorstopper look in the Washington Post at tropical deforestation in Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil: “If the Amazon is to die, it will be beef that kills it.” In the United States, Brazil’s beef giant JBS supplies retailers like Kroger, Albertsons (Safeway, Von’s, and Jewel-Osco), and Goya Foods with deforestation beef. But don’t worry, our government is on the case:

“No federal agency tracks the domestic sale of imported beef. And retailers aren’t obligated to inform consumers of the raw beef’s country of origin. That labeling requirement was repealed with the passage of the 2016 omnibus spending bill.”

Hearings on the Hill this Week:

Tuesday, May 3

Wednesday, May 4

Thursday, May 5

Friday, May 6

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