with Alexandra Ellerbeck

Democratic politicians and activists on Tuesday heaped praise on former vice president Joe Biden’s plan to tackle rising global temperatures at the convention— and criticized President Trump for denying the problem while in office.

But like with so much else, the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout have dominated the Democratic National Convention so far. 

During last night's prime-time broadcast, Democrats name-checked climate change, but rarely went into detail. 

By contrast, it included an in-depth segment to Biden's health-care proposals.

Former secretary of state John F. Kerry, who help broker the Paris climate accord in 2015, praised Barack Obama and Biden for forging “a 195-nation agreement to attack climate change.”

Noting that Biden entered office as vice president during the last economic recession, former president Bill Clinton said Biden has “given us smart detailed plans" that include "good jobs in green energy and conservation to combat climate change.”

And in describing what Democrats would do if they won full control of Congress, Senate Minority Charles Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised "strong, decisive action to combat climate change" — though he listed health care and tax reform first. 

Climate change emerged as a top-tier issue during the Democratic primary.

But more recent polling shows climate change has receded in importance among voters since the start of the pandemic. 

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in May, 33 percent of registered voters nationwide said climate change was a “very important” issue — 10 percentage points down from February. 

The issue, though, was highlighted often during the party's official roll call that gave viewers a virtual tour of the country, when delegates from Alaska, Idaho and several other states noted how sea-level rise and other effects of global warming were already impacting their homes. 

During the digital delegate allocation, electrical union worker in Ohio stood in front of a wind turbine to talk about clean energy. Representatives from California stood on a sun-drenched beach to talk about pollution.

Party leaders were able to make a more detailed case for Biden’s climate plan during a virtual climate forum.

In a pair of panels hosted by the DNC Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis earlier in the day, before the prime-time broadcast, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee argued that Biden's $2 trillion climate plan is “sufficiently bold” and “electorally practical.”

Biden is proposing to set a legal mandate for electricity providers to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, a plan that is modeled in part on policies that Inslee has implemented in Washington state. 

“That’s meat on the bone,” Inslee said. 

The Washington governor added that although many of Trump’s efforts to boost fossil fuel use have been derailed by the courts, Biden is “smart enough” to succeed with his own policies. 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison praised Biden for promising to remain in the international Paris climate accord and suggested the former vice president could convene other world leaders to reduce emissions.

“The tone setting, I think, is the most important thing,” Ellison said.

Mandela Barnes, the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, where the convention was supposed to be held before the coronavirus outbreak, connected the pandemic and climate change as areas in which Trump has rejected science. 

“His denial of climate change is just like his denial of covid-19,” Barnes said.

Power plays

Democrats quietly drop call to end fossil fuel subsidies from party platform.

Previous drafts of the party platform included an amendment that said Democrats “support eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels and will fight to defend and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.”

“The statement ― which reflects pledges presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, each made on the campaign trail ― disappeared from the final draft of the party platform circulated Monday,” HuffPost reported.

The DNC told HuffPost that the amendment was included incorrectly, but environmental activists such as 350.org founder Bill McKibben have railed against the decision.

Trump blamed Democrats’ green-energy policies for California's power outages.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) connected the power shortage to the states transition away from gas plants, according to the Los Angeles Times, but defended the transition to cleaner energy. “We cannot sacrifice reliability as we move forward in this transition,” he said. As temperatures rise from climate change, power-use surges become all the more likely, and the transition from sources that drive climate change all the more imperative, clean-energy advocates argue.

In the courts

A coalition of attorneys general is challenging Trump’s push to transport liquefied natural gas on trains.

Top legal officers from 15 states have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the Trump administration’s plan to allow for shipments of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, by rail.

While supporters see an opportunity to increase energy exports, critics say escaping gas can become highly flammable and trigger explosions.

The coalition argues that by permitting transporting gas by rail, the administration failed to provide evidence that operators can reduce the risk of a catastrophic accident.

“Ships carrying LNG have been characterized as floating bombs,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, who led the petition. “Rolling tank cars filled with LNG through our neighborhoods are vastly more dangerous."

Several environmental groups also filed a challenge on Tuesday against the rule.

A group of human rights advocates will monitor the trial of environmental lawyer who battled Chevron.

In many countries, it’s common practice for legal advocates to monitor the justice system for misconduct. Not so in the United States.

But advocates told the Hill that the move is necessary ahead of a trial charging a prominent environmental lawyer with contempt of court. New York lawyer Steven Donziger represented Ecuadoran plaintiffs in a 2011 class-action lawsuit that resulted in a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for environmental damages. Chevron hit back, accusing the lawyer of engaging in fraud and bribery to win the case.

Donziger lost the fraud suit, his license to practice and even his ability to leave his home after he was put on house arrest, but advocates have sharply criticized the case against the environmental lawyer. A star witness in the case against him admitted to lying on the stand, critics told the Hill.

“The depths of what seems to be misconduct in this case were eerily similar to the types of misconduct we've seen in other countries that have a lesser commitment to and tradition of just rule of law,” Scott Wilson Badenoch Jr., an environmental lawyer and chair of an American Bar Association committee on environmental justice, told the Hill. “I don't want to have to spend my time monitoring an American case to protect a human rights defender here in America. Thats seriously the last thing I want to do, but here we are.”

A spokesperson for Chevron called Donziger “a proven liar.” 


Iowa's slow response to storm damage is sparking anger. 

Trump met Tuesday with Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to discuss the aftermath of a storm that devastated homes and farmland and left thousands without power. But some are saying the governor waited too long to seek help.

“Critics of Reynolds, an ally of President Trump, have charged she did not call for the National Guard immediately after the hurricane-like event on Aug. 10, canceled a planned tour of damage in the epicenter of Cedar Rapids the next day, and waited nearly a week to formally ask for nearly $4 billion in federal disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for thousands of businesses, farms and residents who lost their livelihoods,” my colleagues Annie Gowen and Frances Stead Sellers report.

The rare windstorm, which hit Iowa late last week with hurricane-force winds, flattened 37 million acres of crops. The Trump administration approved a disaster declaration on Monday.

The storm damage coincided with an all-time high of coronavirus cases in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“More than 1,000 homes in the Cedar Rapids area have been declared uninhabitable, raising the specter that hundreds of families could be without a place to stay at a time when the state remains in the grip of the pandemic,” Gowen and Sellers write.

Oil check

An oil and gas lobby group is increasing its advertising spending in the lead-up to the election.

The American Petroleum Institute, America’s biggest oil and gas lobby group, increased its spending dramatically after Biden unveiled a $2 trillion climate plan.

“The campaign by the American Petroleum Institute (API), targeted at younger voters and some tight congressional races, is part of a global battle by the drilling industry to assuage growing fears over the role of natural gas in driving climate change,” Reuters reports.

The group is spending an average of $24,000 a day on Facebook ads that portray natural gas as a “clean” fuel.

The Obama administration accepted gas as part of a transition from coal-fired power, but the environmental wing of the Democratic Party has largely rejected that notion, pointing out that using gas still adds carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere.