Democrats poised to retake the House majority will attempt to tackle an issue their GOP counterparts largely ignored while they controlled both chambers of Congress: climate change.
That, at least, Democrats can agree on. Who should spearhead the Herculean job of addressing climate change — all while Republicans still control the Senate and the White House — is a different matter.
There is a turf battle underway within the new Democratic majority over how it should wield its new power to address what scientists say is an ecological crisis the world has precious little time to solve.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), looking to corral support from the party’s progressive wing and again be elected speaker of the House, said she “strongly” supports reestablishing a special committee on climate change. By doing so she is meeting one of the demands from a group of protesters — one of whom was high-profile Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — who occupied Pelosi's office Tuesday.
A day after Pelosi tweeted out her support for creating a special climate committee, three expected chairs of existing committees — Science, Space, and Technology’s Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), Energy and Commerce’s Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Natural Resouces's Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) — said that they plan to hold two days’ worth of hearings on climate change early next year.
Two of those ranking members, Pallone and Johnson, have already voiced apprehension about duplicating the efforts of their own panels.
“There are already four committees that have jurisdiction over climate change, and we have climate change champions leading all these committees,” Pallone said.
Johnson meanwhile wondered what a select committee, which before being disbanded by Republicans in 2011 was purely a fact-finding panel, could achieve with the president regularly dismisses the scientific consensus that human activity is warming the globe.
“I don't know what a special select committee would do to change the executive branch,” Johnson said in an interview last week. “But that is where we will have to do a lot of negotiation, a lot of understanding to move forward.”
Ben Guarino contributed to this report.
|You are reading The Energy 202, our must-read tipsheet on energy and the environment.|
|Not a regular subscriber?|
— "Worse than any war zone I saw in Iraq": Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke surveyed the devastation from the Camp Fire in Chico, Calif., visiting the region alongside FEMA administrator William “Brock” Long and California Gov. Jerry Brown (D). Zinke compared the destruction to a war zone. “We’re very clever as Americans, and we need to pull together to make sure these communities like Whiskeytown and like Yosemite and like Paradise don’t get devastated,” he said Wednesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Zinke also acknowledged the role of rising temperatures in the wildfires during a news conference. The fire seasons have "gotten longer, the temperatures have gotten hotter,” he said, though he also said “there’s a lot of reasons for a fire” and “now is not the time to point fingers.”
The latest from the fires: The search for the missing continues and the fire rages on in Northern California, where the Camp Fire has killed at least 56 people, burned through 138,000 acres in Butte County and wrecked more than 10,000 structures, the Los Angeles Times reports. As of Wednesday, this deadliest fire in the state’s history was 35 percent contained. Meanwhile, the LA Times reports a third body was found in the wreckage of the Woolsey fire, which has scorched more than 98,000 acres in Southern California.
Every time I come to California I say this is the worst fire I’ve seen. Once again this is the absolute worst. Worse than any war zone I saw in Iraq. The heroism of firefighters is amazing pic.twitter.com/1qMvLRrNLh— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) November 14, 2018
Meanwhile, President Trump suggested on Twitter that he mended fences with the California governor on the phone, assuring support from his administration days after threatening to cut funding to the state over forestry policy.
Just spoke to Governor Jerry Brown to let him know that we are with him, and the people of California, all the way!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 14, 2018
— California’s deadliest wildfire is also a massive air quality problem: "Wildfire smoke, thick with soot and other particles, sent the air quality plummeting in the Bay Area to the 'very unhealthy' level — the second-lowest rating, just above 'hazardous' — in the week since the Camp Fire started," Ben Guarino, Zara Stone and Sawsan Morrar report for The Post. While San Francisco General Hospital has not observed any significant uptick in respiratory complaints, some stores in the area are selling out of respirator masks.
—The fate of the L.A. mountain lions: It’s unclear how the charred Santa Monica Mountains, scorched by the massive Woolsey Fire, will impact the future of the area's mountain lions, which The Post’s Karin Brulliard writes are “arguably the country’s most studied and most imperiled population of mountain lions, whose fates remain unclear.”
“The National Park Service said 10 of 13 cougars it tracks with radio collars survived and are moving, though that does not necessarily mean they are uninjured,” she writes. Two others wear collars that must be tracked in person, which the fires have made impossible.
— Watch the warming ocean devour Alaska’s coast: A 5.5 mile stretch of permafrost coastline along Alaska's North Slope is receding at a rate of 30 football fields a year, The Post’s Chris Mooney reports. “A new satellite-based study of the retreating permafrost coastline at Drew Point, in Alaska’s North Slope region, shows that from 1955 to 1979, the rate of loss was only about 23 feet per year. From 2007 through 2016, it was about 56 feet per year."
The coastal erosion is unlikely isolated to just Drew Point. Study author Benjamin Jones of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks "estimates that only 1 to 2 percent of Arctic coastlines have been surveyed to study how much they are eroding, and few to the extent that Drew Point has been."
— Humans to blame for worsening hurricanes, new studies say: A pair of studies published in the journal Nature separately point to climate change and expanding cities as a cause of worsening storms. One study pointed to rainfall that increased from 5 to 10 percent in Hurricanes Katrina, Irma and Maria, according to Bloomberg News, while the other found the urban footprint in Houston "increased the odds of extreme flooding seen during Hurricane Harvey" by about 21 times.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on Rita Baranwal to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy), Bernard L. McNamee to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Raymond David Vela to be Director of the National Park Service.
- The American Council on Renewable Energy, Solar Energy Industries Association and Energy Innovation hold an event on the outlook for clean energy following the 2018 midterms on Friday.
— “Larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune:” Signs of a ‘super Earth,’ the second-closest exoplanet known to science, were discovered around a nearby star, The Post’s Sarah Kaplan reports.