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The Energy 202: Hunting and fishing groups urge Congress to work together on climate change

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with Paulina Firozi

A group of 41 hunting and fishing organizations are urging Democrats and Republicans in Congress to do more to combat climate change by protecting the land and waters critical for their sports. 

Catastrophic drought, intense wildfires and aquatic dead zones created by toxic algae blooms are harming the habitat of the animals they like to hunt and fish, the groups said in a letter Monday to congressional leaders calling for bipartisan legislation to address the impacts of climate change. 

They argue taking steps to preserve that habitat will also help keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and blunt the adverse impacts of rising temperatures. 

“Sportsmen and women, landowners and managers, and outdoor enthusiasts are on the front lines of climate change, often witnessing declines in landscape health and resiliency as well as impacts on our nation’s fish and wildlife resources,” the groups, which also include companies that make hunting and fishing gear, wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“We support immediate actions at the federal, state, local and private levels to catalyze these needed solutions,” read the letter, also addressed to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)

The groups are weighing in at a moment when the political landscape is changing alongside the physical environment.

Several Republicans in Congress are showing interest in passing legislation taking small steps to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. 

The hunting and fishing organizations themselves tend to have many conservative members, and this is the first time in a decade the groups have engaged on the issue en masse, said Whit Fosburgh, head of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a coalition of conservation organizations that spent a year organizing the letter.

“The debate has changed in the past few years, where you can talk about climate change,” Fosburgh said. 

In June, for example, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), a tree farmer, put forward a bill meant to make it easier for farmers and foresters to make money from reducing emissions from their fields and forests.

And later that month Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who represents the fastest-warming place in the United States, sponsored a bill to bolster research into ways oceans can store carbon.

U.N. scientists, however, say a drastic curb in emissions is needed over the next decade to forestall dangerous warming.

The letter also arrives less than 100 days until a presidential election that could grant former vice president Joe Biden and congressional Democrats the power in Washington to try to pass major climate legislation.

“Our community needs to be at the table,” Fosburgh said.

The hunters and fishers seek to protect and expand game habitat but steer clear of controversial proposals.

The sportsmen groups want the federal government to restore marshes, mangroves and other wetlands along oceans and rivers that act as a buffer against flooding, lock carbon out of the atmosphere and provide a home for waterfowl they like to hunt. 

They also want better incentives for farmers to remove more land from agricultural production and plant grasses that both sequester carbon and give space for birds, deer and other game.

“We do this stuff all of the time,” Fosburgh said. But we don’t usually think of it as a climate solution.” 

The lobbying push, however, lacked specifics on what bills need to be passed or what programs need to be changed. For several of the organizations, this is the first time they have taken a stance on climate change.

“This is the first time we’ve come out very publicly and said, ‘These things are happening,' said Howard Vincent, president of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, a 140,000-member hunting organization. “This is the first time we are connecting those dots.”

And the sportsmen don’t make recommendations how the federal government should cut climate-warming emissions from cars, power plants and other major sources.

“The debate about the causes of climate change becomes a distraction,” said Dan Forster, director of government relations at the Archery Trade Association, another party to the letter that represents the manufacturers and retailers of bowhunting equipment.

“This letter stays away from some of the most political of debates,” he added.

Some hunters say they already see how raising temperatures are altering their favorite hunting spots.

Nick Pinizzotto, a deer hunter of more than three decades, remembers the frigid temperatures in October when hunting in western Pennsylvania during his youth.

“Now it seems to stay warmer much longer,” said Pinizzotto, who is now the head of the National Deer Alliance, a deer hunting and conservation group. 

The damage has been more dramatic elsewhere.

As my colleagues Zoeann Murphy and Chris Mooney reported last year, rising temperatures in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley since 1950 have led to bark beetle outbreaks and drought that led to forest fires that have driven away elk. 

“The forest health has deteriorated,” Michael Gordon, an elk hunter, told The Post. “Hundreds of thousands of acres have burned. So we have hundreds of thousands of acres of pick-up sticks.”

Power plays

The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog will review the agency’s rewrite of Obama-era vehicle emissions standards. 

“The inspector general’s office said it would conduct an evaluation to determine if EPA actions were ‘consistent with requirements, including those pertaining to transparency, record-keeping, and docketing, and followed the EPA’s process for developing final regulatory actions,’ ” Reuters reports.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called for the inspector general investigation in May.

“The inspector general wants numerous documents including briefing materials on the final rule,” per the report. “Carper said the documents obtained show ‘significant inaccuracies and technical errors in the final rule’ that the EPA apparently asked the Transportation Department to correct.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is proposing a measure to block the Dakota Access pipeline and similar projects. 

She has proposed an amendment to the next budget bill that would block the U.S. Army Corps from using federal funding to issue permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act “for the discharge of dredged or fill material resulting from an activity to construct a pipeline for the transportation of oil or gas,” HuffPost reports.

“That would prevent the Army Corps from constructing, repairing or working on roughly 8,000 projects per year involving oil and gas pipelines that cross waterways,” per the report. “…It could also imperil the Dakota Access Pipeline itself. “ 

The amendment, which the House Rules Committee is set to consider during a Tuesday hearing, “could face significant opposition within the House, where the Democratic majority remains split on the urgency of stopping new fossil fuel projects that proponents see as economic boons and opponents say spell climate disaster. The Republican-controlled Senate would almost certainly reject the measure.” 

Facebook’s chief executive is set to testify on how the social media platform addresses climate change denial. 

“The company's largely hands-off approach to climate denial, which has allowed climate misinformation to spread among Facebook users, has angered Democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate, as well as environmental groups,” E&E News reports. “The House Judiciary Committee plans to examine the market dominance of tech companies such as Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook and Google. In addition to Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai are scheduled to testify.” (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

"With the consequences of inaction towards climate change becoming ever more catastrophic and dire, we believe you have a responsibility to your users to stop those seeking to blur the lines between facts based on climate science and those peddling pseudoscience," dozens of Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to send to social media leaders. "We believe that the broader safeguards you have adopted have not sufficiently stemmed the tide of disinformation regarding climate change online."

The Government Accountability Office says the Defense Department does not regularly consider how climate change affects contractors. 

In the report, the government watchdog said the Pentagon “has not systematically incorporated consideration of climate change into its acquisition and supply processes, consequently limiting the military departments’ ability to best consider the potential effects on their own operations from climate-related risks faced by their contractors as part of these processes” and adds, “Excluding climate change and extreme weather considerations will limit DOD’s ability to anticipate and manage climate-related risks so as to build resilience into its processes, and could jeopardize its ability to carry out its missions.” 

“The Pentagon has recognized climate change as a threat to its operations since 2010, and in as recently as a 2019 report, called ‘the effects of a changing climate ... a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations,’” the Hill reports. “But Pentagon officials during the Trump administration have also had to tiptoe around the issue of climate change as President Trump has routinely dismissed the scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity."

Trump made two nominations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including Democrats’ preferred nominee. 

The nominations come as Democratic lawmakers have urged the president to maintain the commission’s traditionally bipartisan makeup, the Hill reports. “Trump nominated Allison Clements, Democrats’ preferred nominee, alongside Mark C. Christie, who currently serves as chairman of Virginia State Corporation Commission. If confirmed, the two would regulate electricity and natural gas markets alongside other major energy projects,” per the report. “…FERC’s five-member board is supposed to have no more than three members of any one party, but for much of the year it’s been operating with just four members — three Republicans and one Democrat.”  

The manufacturing industry in the United States is starting to see some improvement, the Commerce Department said.

But the resurgence of coronavirus cases across the country means it's not all optimistic news.

“The improvement in manufacturing reported by the Commerce Department on Monday was driven by pent-up demand following the reopening of businesses,” Reuters reports. “The budding recovery is threatened by a resurgence in new cases of the coronavirus, which has forced some authorities in the hard-hit South and West regions to either close businesses again or halt reopenings.” 


A new study says there are more than a dozen states in the central part of the country where wind energy can be ramped up without affecting wildlife. 

The new analysis from the Nature Conservancy pointed to 17 states with “low-impact land” or areas where wind turbines could be installed without endangering wildlife or intruding on protected land, the Wichita Eagle reports. There is enough land to support enough wind energy development to meet or surpass renewable energy goals, per the report. 

“Within the broader wind belt region we have a 1,000 gigawatts of low impact wind potential that could be developed theoretically,” Nathan Cummins, the project leader and the Great Plains Renewable Energy Strategy director, told the Wichita Eagle. “That’s a ton of energy. That’s basically comparable to all of the electrical capacity of the United States right now.”

Hurricane Douglas largely avoided directly hitting the Hawaiian Islands. 

“In a move few predicted, Douglas largely skirted the archipelago, curving north as if to avoid an obstacle. While wind, rain and high surf still accompanied Douglas’s passage, the island of Kauai — which experienced the closest shave — still missed landfall by about 40 miles,” Matthew Cappucci reports. “…Conditions on Kauai would have been significantly more severe if the eyewall had managed to brush its northern shore, which it missed by only 27 miles. There is a dramatic increase in winds once one enters the eyewall. Thunderstorms within the eyewall were up to 45,000 feet tall.”

But the hurricane season continues, and another tropical storm is set to develop in the Atlantic. 

“Just a day after Tropical Storm Hanna dumped a foot and a half of rainfall in Texas and parts of Mexico, the tropics are roaring to life once again. A wave of low pressure meandering westward, located about halfway between Cabo Verde and the Windward Islands, is likely to develop into Tropical Storm Isaias in the coming days, according to the National Hurricane Center,” Cappucci writes.

Forecasts have pointed to an unusually active hurricane season, with climate-driven warm waters fueling storm intensity. 

Washington is set to break a record for most 90-degree days in July. 

If D.C. hits 90 degrees today, it will surpass a record of 25 such days that was last reached in July 2011. 

“It’s a near-certainty that July 2020 will finish among the top four hottest Julys on record. Third place seems most likely,” Ian Livingston reports. “Using National Weather Service forecast numbers for the rest of the month, a projection of 83.8 degrees for the average temperature puts this July between 2012, which ranked second-hottest, and 2010, which ranked fourth-hottest. July 2011 is the record-holder, with 84.5 degrees.”