THE LIGHTBULB

Democrats have found a way of talking about — and even praising — the Green New Deal even after many on Capitol Hill have withheld support for it.

The method: Endorsing the enthusiasm it is generating.

The latest example of that rhetorical tact came Tuesday from former secretary of state John F. Kerry.

During testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee, Kerry suggested to lawmakers that while he may not agree with every facet of climate resolution from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who took Kerry’s Senate seat after Kerry joined President Barack Obama’s Cabinet in 2013, he likes the energy it created. 

“We all have some differences with one piece of legislation or another,” Kerry told lawmakers. “But in proposing what she has proposed, together with Sen. Markey, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has in fact offered more leadership in one day or in one week than President Trump has in his lifetime on this subject.” 

Since the resolution calling on the United States to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions was introduced in February, congressional Democrats have tried to show a unified front regarding the Green New Deal in the face of an onslaught of criticism from Republicans seeking to cast it as a socialist fantasy. 

And this attempt continues even after the resolution was defeated in the Senate — and Democrats did not formally back it in the March vote. 

The top Senate Democrat, Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), rallied his caucus to vote “present” for what he derided as a “sham” vote held by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

But Schumer then he wanted to harness “the energy of the young people” on the climate issue. “We want to take that energy and channel it into something more constructive,”  he told the New York Times. 

And it's a sentiment that's been around since even before Ocasio-Cortez and Markey rolled out their resolution. Back in February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “I haven’t seen it, but I do know that it’s enthusiastic and we welcome all the enthusiasms that are out there.” That was her way of walking back a dismissive comment published earlier that day in Politico calling the proposal “the green dream or whatever.”

And other Democrats said it was clear that the Green New Deal would spark substantial debate across the country about how to curb climate-warming emissions and its effects. “I appreciate the consciousness that they've raised among Americans coast to coast,” Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), chair of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on climate change and the environment, told Roll Call that month.

Yet Republicans have alleged the resolution, which is nonbinding, means its backers intend to ban meat and airplanes. The text of the resolution mentions neither.

The bashing continued during Tuesday’s hearing. “The Green New Deal’s not new, but it is devastating,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said, encouraging lawmakers to read a Green New Deal fact sheet published but later retracted by Ocasio-Cortez’s office.

Ocasio-Cortez, herself a member of the Oversight panel, asked her colleagues to read the nonbinding document itself.

“We don’t need CliffsNotes for a 14-page resolution that was designed to be read in plain English by the American people,” she said. “So I would encourage my colleagues to actually read the resolution presented, so that they can speak to it responsibly and respectfully.”

She added later on Twitter that she was “humbled” by Kerry's remark:

POWER PLAYS

— Pipeline plans: Trump will issue a pair of executive orders on Wednesday, aiming to “help American energy companies avoid unnecessary red tape” by expediting oil and gas pipeline projects and making it more difficult for state agencies to intervene, The Post’s Steven Mufson and Toluse Olorunnipa report. “The executive action seeks to rein in states’ power by changing the implementation instructions issued by federal agencies and changing the deadlines for state action,” they write. “A second order, focused on cross-border energy projects, would clarify that the president is solely responsible for approving or denying pipelines and other infrastructure that cross international boundaries. The secretary of state has previously played that role.”

— Senate Democrats lobby Interior about lobbying: Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Gary Peters of Michigan want to know more about how David Bernhardt plans to reform the Interior Department's ethics program ahead of his confirmation vote to lead the department. In a letter to the acting Interior secretary, they raised concerns about recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report found the ethics programs understaffed to properly vet potential conflicts of interest. Bernhardt himself faced tough questioning from Democratic lawmakers about his history as a lobbyist.

— PFAS push: Lawmakers from both parties continue their focus on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — a class of pollutants better known as PFAS — with a bill being introduced Wednesday to create a national database for service members and veterans experiencing health problems from possible exposure. The latest legislation comes from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). Reps. Chris Pappas (D-N.H) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) have a companion bill in the House.

— Wheeler on the Hill: During a budget hearing before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Democrats questioned EPA chief Andrew Wheeler about the administration’s move to roll back an Obama-era fuel emission standard. “This proposed action is a perfect example of how EPA prioritizes boosting industries like the oil industry over public safety,” Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif) said, The Hill reports. Wheeler insisted a new emissions standard from the Trump administration would cut emission just as the previous one did. “I’ve been told by my staff that the impact of CO2 emissions are pretty similar to the Obama proposal, because the Obama proposal had a number of exemptions and off-ramps and many car auto makers are not complying with standards today,” Wheeler said.

— EPA scientists calculate cost of climate change: A new study from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency found that without efforts to cut carbon emissions, climate change will cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars a year by the end of the century, emerging in the form of water shortages, infrastructure issues and polluted air. The study published in the journal Nature Climate Change also warns that every part of the country will be affected, the Los Angeles Times reports. But the researchers also said cuts to carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions could curb the damage, and could reduce the economic cost by more than half in some areas.

— Bipartisan measure urges LWCF funding: A bipartisan group of senators, including Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Cory Gardner of (R-Colo.), introduced a bill that would provide permanent and mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill would require $900 million in annual funding for the fund that funnels offshore drilling revenue to toward land conservation. The program lapsed last year amid a political stalemate in Washington over the border wall and other issues, only being reauthorized in Feburary.

— “It’s just unrealistic”: Republican lawmakers dismissed Puerto Rico’s effort to reach 100 percent renewable energy during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing, “opening a new front in an increasingly bitter partisan battle over the storm-ravaged island’s struggle to recover,” HuffPost reports. Last month, Puerto Rico’s legislature passed a bill that would require 100 percent renewable power by 2050. “It’s just unrealistic,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said during the hearing. “Yet there’s still legislation.” Bruce Walker, an assistant secretary at the Energy Department, testified there would be “engineering concerns” with the goal. And Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority CEO José Ortiz Vázquez agreed, but said there was a debate over how much to invest in imported gas as the U.S. territory works toward its clean energy goals.

—Meanwhile: Negotiations in the Senate over disaster aid have stalled ahead of a two-week recess for Congress, which means Puerto Rico and states across the country recovering from various natural disasters will have to wait for lawmakers to return to Washington before they receive any aid. “Democrats have rejected the latest offer made by Republican appropriators over funding for Puerto Rico,” Politico reports. “The collapse in negotiations comes after the Senate last week shot down two competing plans that would provide at least $13 billion in aid to communities hit by hurricanes, wildfires and catastrophic flooding in recent months. It’s unclear what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will decide to do now with the stalled bill.”
 

THERMOMETER

— The massive impact of mountain glaciers: A new study found that ice melt from mountain glaciers could have fed a third of the increase in sea level that has occurred in the past six decades. That means mountain glacier melt has contributed to ocean levels about as much as the Greenland ice sheet and far more than melting in Antarctica, E&E News reports. “Glaciers are, at the moment, one of the relevant drivers, and they will remain so over probably the next century,” University of Zurich glaciologist and lead study author Michael Zemp told the publication. “Because they are very sensitive — much more sensitive than the ice sheets — they are really causing the trouble now.”

— How climate change will affect coastal residents: Coastal property owners are not well prepared for the onslaught of hurricanes and sea-level rise that will affect their homes as global warming puts those homes at increased risk, new research has found. The University of Notre Dame study found these homeowners are not taking basic steps to protect their properties, and that disaster preparedness research of the “structural vulnerabilities” of such homes is limited, E&E News reports. “Absent strict, enforceable regulations mandating retrofitting of existing homes or major changes in homeowner insurance requirements, coastal resilience in a changing climate will largely reflect private, voluntary decisions of millions of individuals,” the study published in the journal Climatic Change found.

DAYBOOK

Coming Up

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on "Opportunities for Energy Innovation and Other Potential Solutions to Help Address Global Climate Change" on Thursday.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— At 9 a.m. Eastern Wednesday, scientists will hold simultaneous news conferences in Washington, Belgium, Denmark, Chile, Japan, China and Taiwan to announce long-anticipated results of the Event Horizon Telescope, and everyone is hoping to see the first direct image of a black hole. The Post’s Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach break down a brief history of black holes ahead of that announcement.