When a collection of advocacy groups and left-leaning publications announced a forum for Democratic presidential candidates to discuss climate change, they wanted the focus to be on what they see as a generational crisis.
But now a bizarre blog post is changing the discussion. And the shift is happening at a time when environmentalists are worried the Democratic Party is giving short shrift to what they see as a looming catastrophe.
It all started on Friday when the New Republic, a left-leaning political magazine, published an op-ed about 2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., that many readers derided as homophobic.
The op-ed, titled “My Mayor Pete Problem” and written by Dale Peck, repeatedly referred to “Mayor Pete” as “Mary Pete” and speculated about his sexual preferences.
The incendiary blog post from the reliably liberal magazine, seemingly a piece of satire gone awry, stunned many regular readers. The magazine quickly replaced the article with an editor's note calling the piece "inappropriate and invasive." And the magazine's editor in chief, Win McCormack, offered Buttigieg his "sincerest apologies."
But the damage was already underway. The Washington-based publication was one of two — along with the news website Gizmodo owned by G/O Media — set to host the climate event scheduled for September in New York. A number of environmental groups — including the League of Conservation Voters as well as the political arms of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice — pulled their support for the event.
“The offensive piece by this author, and the choice to run it, are inconsistent with our values,” Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “We will remain focused on the important work of elevating the climate crisis in this election and encouraging all the candidates to be prioritizing solutions."
By Sunday, Gizmodo too was distancing itself from The New Republic, saying the climate summit would go on without the involvement of the magazine. The publications had just begun recruiting candidates after announcing the date of the forum last week.
But it is unclear if any of the environmental groups will again sponsor the forum. "G/O Media would welcome the groups who dropped out to rejoin so their important voices can be heard," Gizmodo's parent company said in an emailed statement. "We understand and share their indignation but hope to move forward with the best possible partners."
The Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice did not respond to requests for comment, while the League of Conservation Voters said it did not have update to its statement issued Saturday.
In many ways, the climate summit, during which candidates (whichever come) would be interrogated one-by-one, is the next-best alternative to a head-to-head climate-focused debate hosted by the Democratic National Committee. A number of climate activists, and several 2020 candidates, have called for such a televised debate in order to better highlight the issue.
But the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, has steadfastly refused to hold any issue-specific debates — even after, to the dismay of environmental activists, NBC and MSNBC hosts devoted a total of 15 minutes to climate-change questions during the two nights of the first Democratic debate last month.
— Barry brings rain to Louisiana but leaves New Orleans largely unscathed: The storm made landfall as the first hurricane of the 2019 Atlantic season on Saturday, bringing a torrential downpour in Louisiana and Mississippi before the system moved toward Arkansas. But The Post's Tim Craig, Ashley Cusick, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach report it "underperformed most forecasts" with New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other waterlogged communities dodging "the kind of full-blown natural disaster that seemed possible just a few days earlier."
— “They’re continuing to build in places where Mother Nature intended water to go”: The region near the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers has been one of the most flood prone in Missouri. There’s been about $18 million in flood insurance claims paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency since 1979. But even as the floods get worse, the city continues to develop, with a “$1.5 billion riverfront development along the Missouri’s banks, 120 acres of upscale shops, restaurants and apartments mostly in the river’s flood plain, an area that has been partly submerged this summer,” The Post’s Annie Gowen, Frances Stead Sellers and Aaron Williams report. “…Yet with millions of people living in flood plains and shipping and tourism economies built on these key waterways, there is little political will for change. Environmentalists charge that jurisdictions hungry for tax revenue are continuing to plan risky projects without taking floods’ worsening intensity into account, heedless of the economic and human consequences.”
— One benefit of all the rain this year: Midwestern farmers have struggled as a result of the heavy rainfall that poured down and swamped farmlands , but because farmers have worked less and put down less fertilizer this year, there’s been less phosphorus washing into rivers and lakes. As a result, there could be less of the potentially toxic blue-green algae that’s fed by the nutrient. “The amount of phosphorus washing into Lake Erie from the Maumee River was 30% lower than it would have been without the farming interruptions, based on the volume of water reaching the lake, researchers in Ohio said Thursday at a news conference,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “…The Ohio forecast comes as unusually large algal blooms have closed about two dozen beaches in Mississippi along the Gulf Coast. Experts said the blooms, which are rare to the region, can most clearly be explained by recent flooding in the Mississippi River.”
— EPA will allow use of pesticides dangerous for bees: The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday approved new uses and got rid of previous restrictions on a controversial insecticide, even as environmental advocates and beekeepers warned it contributes to the decline of U.S. bee populations. Alexandra Dunn, head of the agency’s office that oversees pesticides, said the EPA was “thrilled” to approve new applications for sulfoxaflor, which The Post’s Brady Dennis writes the agency itself has noted the is “very highly toxic” to bees. “At a time when honeybees and other pollinators are dying in greater numbers than ever before, EPA’s decision to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless,” Greg Loarie, an attorney for the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, said in an email. The sulfoxaflor will be enabled for use on various crops, including citrus, corn and soybeans.
— More potential moves from the EPA this week: The agency is planning to weaken rules to end an appeals process allowing citizens to argue against pollution permits, though the administration will continue allowing appeals to such decisions, the New York Times reports. Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard, called the plan “outrageous.” He and other environmental experts told the Times the “proposed rule change would not only grant industry a broader role in influencing the E.P.A. to issue more lenient pollution permits, but could disproportionately harm poor and minority communities, which are statistically more likely to be located near polluting sites.” Meanwhile, lawyers representing industrial interests say the plan would “eliminate burdensome red tape, speeding up a process that is ultimately decided by the courts anyway.” The proposed rule change could be unveiled as soon as this week.
— New York in the dark: Con Edison worked to restore power to tens of thousands of customers who experienced a widespread blackout in the middle of Manhattan on Saturday. It apologized for the failure that caused the about five-hour outage, but there was no clear explanation for the shutdown as of Sunday, the New York Times reports.Utility officials said they would launch an investigation to learn the “root cause.” “Officials of Con Edison, which operates the city’s power grid, said there was 'a significant electrical transmission disturbance' at 6:47 p.m. on Saturday that left 72,000 of its customers on the West Side of Manhattan without power until late into the night. But they provided scant insight into the underlying cause of the failure, which came on the 42nd anniversary of one of the most infamous blackouts in the city’s history,” the Times writes.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on federal officials to work with the city and state to investigate the blackout:
Yesterday’s blackout left 72,000 New Yorkers without power for hours.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 14, 2019
The @Energy Department must work with the State and City of New York to investigate.
This type of massive blackout is entirely preventable with the right investments in our grid.
- The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on the future of electricity delivery on Wednesday.
- The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions holds an event on “Scaling Your Renewable Energy Strategy” on Wednesday.
- The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing called “Electric Battery Production and Waste: Opportunities and Challenges” on Wednesday.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power holds a hearing on Thursday.
- House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife holds a legislative hearing on Thursday.
- The Federal Energy Regulatory Committee holds an open meeting on Thursday.
— The show must go on: During the New York power outage, cast and musicians from “Come From Away” took the show to the streets, The Post’s Morgan Krakow reports.