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The Climate 202

3 climate stories you may have missed over the Thanksgiving break

The Climate 202

Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! 🌎 Today marks the launch of The Washington Post’s Climate & Environment expansion, with several new features, in-depth coverage of climate and extreme weather, and actionable advice on how to reduce your impact on the planet. Check it out here. But first:

Three climate stories you may have missed — including Mary Peltola and Lisa Murkowski’s wins in Alaska

Whether your Thanksgiving meal included a turkey or a more climate-friendly Tofurky, you probably tuned out the news over the past few days to focus on family and friends.

But on the climate change front, the news never stopped. From congressional races in Alaska to a wildlife conference in Panama, the past few days brought a flurry of important developments for the planet.

Here are three climate stories you may have missed:

Peltola, Murkowski win reelection

On Wednesday, Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) both secured reelection, defeating challengers endorsed by former president Donald Trump after state officials finished a final round of vote-counting, Nathaniel Herz reports for The Washington Post.

The twin victories could boost the prospects for bipartisan dealmaking on energy and environmental issues in the next Congress, given both women’s record of reaching across the aisle in this area.

  • Peltola, who became the first Alaska Native to win a full term in Congress, ran a “pro-fish” campaign that emphasized the importance of sustainable fisheries policy in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, as The Climate 202 previously reported.
  • At the same time, Peltola has joined Alaska’s Republican senators in urging the Interior Department to approve a massive oil project on Alaska’s North Slope, saying the project would provide desperately needed energy and jobs for the region.
  • Meanwhile, as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2020, Murkowski fought to include a major bipartisan energy package in a year-end spending bill.

EDF Action Votes, the campaign arm of the Environmental Defense Fund, invested more than $350,000 in a mail program supporting the cross-party ticket of Murkowski and Peltola.

“Alaskans want independent voices in Washington who are willing to put partisan politics aside to pass commonsense measures that protect our environment and the Alaska way of life,” EDF Action Votes Political Director Dustin Ingalls said in a statement. “That’s exactly what Lisa Murkowski and Mary Peltola have always done.”

Postal Service embraces EV chargers

On Friday, our colleague Jacob Bogage scooped that the U.S. Postal Service plans to use money from the recently passed climate law to build more charging infrastructure for its electric delivery vehicles.

The move could accelerate the Postal Service’s progress toward electrifying its fleet of more than 217,000 vehicles, delivering on President Biden’s directive to ensure that all new government-owned vehicles are electric by 2035.

  • The landmark climate law, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, authorized $3 billion for the mail agency to purchase more EVs and related infrastructure.
  • Some congressional Democrats, including Sens. Edward J. Markey (Mass.) and Thomas R. Carper (Del.), had urged the agency to spend the money on additional EVs instead.
  • But in interviews, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy defended the decision to prioritize charging infrastructure in the short term, saying it would allow the agency to electrify its fleet more quickly without undermining mail delivery.

“I can’t put [electric] vehicles everywhere,” DeJoy said. “They need to have homes.”

Sharks, frogs get extra protections

Also on Friday, delegates at an international wildlife conference in Panama City agreed to enact protections for more than 500 species, including over 90 shark species and scores of frogs, turtles and lizards, Kathia Martínez reports for the Associated Press.

The agreement at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as CITES, could help species that face some overlapping threats, including climate change, disease, habitat loss and the international pet trade.

  • In particular, many environmentalists cheered the protections for glass frogs, which are prized by the pet trade because of their translucent skin. More than half of glass frog species evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature face a high risk of extinction in the wild in Central and South America.
  • Still, some advocates lamented the fact that the conference failed to ban the international trade in hippos amid opposition from the European Union and some African countries.

“Globally cherished mammals such as rhinos, hippos, elephants and leopards didn’t receive increased protections at this meeting while a bunch of wonderful weirdos won conservation victories,” Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “In the midst of a heart-wrenching extinction crisis, we need global agreement to fight for all species, even when it’s contentious.”

International climate

Chevron can resume operations in Venezuela, Treasury says

The Treasury Department on Saturday issued Chevron a limited license to expand existing energy operations in Venezuela, a potential first step toward the South American nation’s reentry into global oil markets, Julie Turkewitz and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report for the New York Times. 

The deal came after representatives of Venezuela’s authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro, resumed talks with the Venezuelan opposition in Mexico on Saturday, resolving a stalemate over humanitarian issues.

The license marks the latest sign of the United States’ shifting relations with Venezuela, as the Biden administration tries to lower energy prices and secure alternatives to Russian oil following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. However, on a Saturday call with reporters, a senior administration official rejected the notion that the license was intended to bring down energy prices, saying it was part of the administration’s efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela.

The Chevron license will expire in six months and must be renewed after that. The United States also has the authority to revoke the license if Maduro does not follow through on humanitarian commitments.

On the Hill

Manchin’s permitting reform deal stalls as GOP eyes his seat in 2024

The side deal between Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Democratic leadership to speed up the approval process for new energy infrastructure is unlikely to pass before the end of the year, as Republicans seek to deprive Manchin of a major victory before his potential reelection bid in 2024, Alexander Bolton reports for the Hill. 

To secure Manchin’s vote for the Inflation Reduction Act this summer, Democratic leadership agreed to pass separate legislation to overhaul the permitting process for energy projects. But Republicans are hesitant to support any deal on permitting reform in the lame-duck session, as they view Manchin’s seat as a key pickup opportunity in the next election.

  • “It’s a heavy lift but we’re still exchanging ideas,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), one of the lead GOP negotiators on permitting reform.
  • A Senate Republican aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, said it would take a “miracle” for Manchin’s measure to pass before January.
  • And Rep. Mike D. Rogers of Alabama, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said last week that there a “zero chance” of adding the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act, even as Manchin argues that it is crucial for national security.

Pressure points

An engineering marvel just saved Venice from a flood. What about when seas rise?

Venice has emerged as a striking example of how communities can adapt to the effects of climate change, with experts marveling after a $6 billion engineering project protected the canal-covered city from mass flooding last week, The Post’s Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli report. 

Saving Venice from inundation is a top priority for the Italian government as it races to preserve buildings and other ancient treasures. The engineering system, known as MOSE, required 30 years of planning and 20 years of construction. It includes 78 rectangular metal barriers, each the height of a five-story building, that are raised from the sea floor whenever high waters threaten the city.

Still, the system could become stressed with even 30 centimeters of sea-level rise, which climate scientists say could occur by mid-century in middle-of-the-road scenarios. In more dire scenarios in which humanity fails to dramatically curb greenhouse gas emissions, the system’s life span could be shortened by decades.

On the Hill this week

On Tuesday: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for a handful of President Biden’s nominees for environmental posts, including the long-delayed nomination of Joseph Goffman to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s air office; Beth Pritchard Geer to become a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors; and Shailen P. Bhatt to lead the Transportation Department’s Federal Highway Administration

On Wednesday: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law, with a focus on the private sector. 

On Thursday: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on several energy bills, including legislation from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) that would direct the Energy Department to establish and operate a domestic uranium reserve, as the United States seeks to curb its reliance on Russian uranium imports to power its nuclear plants.

In the atmosphere


Thanks for reading!