THE LIGHTBULB

Many environmentalists have celebrated Michael Bloomberg as a philanthropist who has generously bankrolled the fight against climate change, spending hundreds of millions of dollars of his own fortune on trying to close coal-fired power plants.

But they're not as excited about Bloomberg, the potential 2020 presidential candidate.

The former New York mayor, who is worth more than $53 billion according to Forbes, began taking steps late last week to mount a bid for the Democratic nomination for president. 

But Bloomberg’s possible self-financed campaign has some environmentalist asking: Why not use that considerable wealth to redouble the ex-New York mayor's environmental efforts rather than to make a long shot White House bid?`

“There is a lot of work to be done in that advocacy,” said Evan Weber, political director and co-founder of the Sunrise Movement. “It’s not really clear how a presidential run advances those efforts.”

It was only a few months ago the 77-year-old seemed content with writing checks rather than running for office. In June, after declaring he would not run for president, Bloomberg launched a $500 million campaign to close every coal plant in the country and halt the growth of natural gas. That commitment came after Bloomberg had already spent more than $100 million on the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign to target coal plants for closure.

“The most important thing we can do is to phase out coal as fast as possible,” Bloomberg said in a speech at a U.N. climate summit last month.

But that big-dollar spending hasn't stopped Bloomberg from butting heads with other Democrats as the party shifts further to the left on climate change — and as scientists issue increasingly dire predictions about a warmer future. 

Earlier this year, Bloomberg criticized Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal, which calls for a complete overhaul of the economy to transition away from fossil fuels over the next decade, for standing “no chance of passage in the Senate over the next two years.” And during the Obama administration, Bloomberg praised hydraulic fracturing for natural gas as a way of cutting energy costs and reducing dependence on coal.

“This race doesn’t need another candidate supporting tepid climate change policy,” said Mitch Jones, climate and energy program director at Food & Water Watch. “We know which side Bloomberg is on — the side of fossil fuel fracking and pipelines.”

More recently, though, Bloomberg has stepped back from talking about natural gas as a “bridge fuel” between coal and renewable sources. “Science increasingly shows that the days of seeing gas as a bridge fuel are coming to an end,” Bloomberg said earlier this year.

Bloomberg seems to have resurrected his interest in the race as swing-state polls show former vice president Joe Biden weakening. But he would have an uphill battle to get organized in a place like Iowa, which holds first-in-the-nation caucuses that often set the tone for the rest of the primary.

“Bloomberg's climate advocacy has been second to none,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser who now works with the Progressive Policy Institute. “But as a longtime Republican and multibillionaire businessman, his chances of winning this particular Democratic nomination are remote.”

“Bloomberg could use his fortune to help Democrats beat Trump in many more effective ways than what would likely amount to a vanity race for the presidency,” he added.

That is a criticism that has dogged the only billionaire to actually declare a run for the Democratic nomination: Tom Steyer. The financier and environmental activist, who helped spur the Obama administration to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, has bankrolled hundreds of Democratic candidates through NextGen America (originally NextGen Climate), his advocacy nonprofit and political action committee.

Both Bloomberg's and Steyer's bids come at a moment when several leading 2020 contenders, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are questioning whether business executives like Bloomberg should even have such vast fortunes in the first place.

“Welcome to the race, @MikeBloomberg! If you're looking for policy plans that will make a huge difference for working people and which are very popular, start here,” Warren tweeted Thursday, linking to her proposal for a tax on the wealth of billionaires like Bloomberg.

POWER PLAYS

— Is this the end of Florida orange juice?: A lethal disease is devastating the state’s citrus industry, having infected 90 percent of the groves in Florida.

  • What the disease does: The bacterium, called huang long bing, “often prevents raw green fruit from ripening, a symptom called citrus greening,” The Post’s Darryl Fears reports. “Even when the fruit does ripen, it sometimes drops to the ground before it can be picked. Under Florida law, citrus that falls from a tree untouched cannot be sold.”
  • By the numbers: Nearly 5,000 of the more than 7,000 farmers that grew citrus in 2004 have since stopped, and two-thirds of the factories that process fruit to juice have shuttered. Packing operations have tanked, too. According to one University of Florida study, 34,000 jobs have been eliminated in the decade leading up to 2016.
  • How climate change is contributing to the problem: The bacterium is spread by an invasive species, a tiny insect called a citrus psyllid. “A study by researchers at the University of Florida and Virginia Tech shows that climate change will allow the psyllid to spread to states north of Florida as their temperatures rise,” Fears adds.

— Experiencing ANWR (without getting in an airplane): Environmental groups have organized a traveling art installation that aims to bring the remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska closer to Americans in the Lower 48.

  • The exhibit: Members of the Gwich’in, Alaska Natives with ancestral ties to the refuge, have joined with conservation groups and others to create the immersive experience, which has appeared in New York City, finishes its D.C. run Monday and will move on to San Francisco. The “Arctic Refuge Experience. Step in. Step up” features images shot by several filmmakers, songs by the Gwich’in and archival congressional testimony. As visitors walk through billowing smoke in a room full of screens and mirrors, footage of migrating caribou, birds and Arctic foxes from the 19.6 million-acre refuge appear onscreen.
  • Why now? The project comes as the Interior Department finalizes plans to auction off oil and gas drilling rights in the refuge. The exhibit also includes a room designed to mobilize opposition to the upcoming lease sale, where attendees can record voicemails for Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the CEOs of Exxon, Chevron, Hillcorp and ConocoPhillips. They can also vote on what action to take next against the lease sales: under a 2017 law, two lease sales encompassing at least 400,000 acres must take place by 2024.

“The system is designed in a way that only oil companies can bid,” said Irene Pedruelo, lead strategist for DoSomething Strategies, which helped design the exhibit. “Let’s try to bid for the land.”

-Juliet Eilperin

— Rick Perry relied on “usual talking points” at July meeting: The energy secretary did not discuss anything inappropriate during a July 10 White House meeting with Ukrainians, according to October testimony from former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, Politico reports. Hill told congressional impeachment investigators, according to remarks made public Friday, that “Perry had been talking at great length about [the] energy sector and corruption. And at no point did I think that anything Secretary Perry said referred to any of these issues that are under discussion today … Secretary Perry was having one, kind of, one set of discussions and that, clearly, Ambassador Sondland seemed to be having a different one.”

  • What else to know about the meeting: “Both Hill and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC staffer overseeing Ukraine policy, said Perry did not participate for long in a subsequent meeting, which Sondland convened after Bolton abruptly shut down the first meeting. That happened, Hill said, after Sondland said President Donald Trump would meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky once the country agreed to “go forward with investigations,” specifically into Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company that employed Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter.”

— Interior Dept. proposes contract with company Bernhardt previously lobbied for: The Interior Department is proposing awarding a permanent federal water contract to the Westlands Water District, which was previously represented by the secretary. David Bernhardt served as a lobbyist for Westlands until 2016, before joining the department in 2017 as a deputy secretary.

“Responding to questions, Interior spokeswoman Carol Danko said the handling of the Westlands’ contract was delegated entirely to California staffers of the Bureau of Reclamation, which is under the Department of Interior. The agency will make a final decision after the legally mandated public comment period, she said,” the Associated Press reports. The proposed contract has raised concern among Democrats and environmental groups. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told the AP: “The Interior Department needs to look out for the public interest, and not just serve the financial interests of their former lobbying clients.”

— “It’s a question of how do we continue to have life here”: Ocracoke, one of the barrier islands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, has been closed to visitors since Hurricane Dorian washed over the region. Residents there are grappling with whether the island, “crouched three feet above sea level between the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound, can survive the threats of extreme weather and rising sea levels,” The Post’s Frances Stead Sellers reports. Scientists have long warned that the island is an indicator of what’s to come for much of the U.S. coast. But some, like the township’s county commissioner Tom Pahl, are committed to recovery. “Is this really sustainable? The answer is pretty clearly no,” Pahl told Sellers. “But what’s the timeline? No one has been able to say, ‘You’ve got 15 years, 40 years, 100 years.’ The clear-eyed vision is resiliency then retreat.”

— Climate change and nuclear waste in the Marshall Islands: The United States buried plutonium under a concrete dome in the Pacific Ocean after World War II. The Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands holds more than 3.1 million cubic feet of nuclear waste. Now, as sea levels rise because of climate change, the dome could collapse, the Los Angeles Times reports in this investigation. “Officials in the Marshall Islands have lobbied the U.S. government for help, but American officials have declined, saying the dome is on Marshallese land and therefore the responsibility of the Marshallese government,” the L.A. Times reports. “…To many in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Runit Dome is the most visible manifestation of the United States’ nuclear legacy, a symbol of the sacrifices the Marshallese made for U.S. security, and the broken promises they received in return. They blame the United States and other industrialized countries for global climate change and sea level rise, which threaten to submerge vast swaths of this island nation’s 29 low-lying atolls.”

Capital Weather Gang
The high water fits into an erratic pattern now becoming the norm with our changing climate.
Kim Frauhammer
National
Chiefs cite outdated communications among other factors.
Joseph Serna

DAYBOOK

Coming Up

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on nuclear power on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session to consider various legislative measures and nominations on Wednesday.
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the future of science in EPA rulemaking on Wednesday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands will hold an oversight hearing on Wednesday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States will hold a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will be featured in a keynote discussion at an event hosted by RealClearPolitics and The National Mining Association on Wednesday.

EXTRA MILEAGE

— If you’re looking for something to do (and have a national park near you): All 419 national parks have waived admissions fees Monday for Veterans Day.