Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.
Today we’re looking at President BidenJoe BidenSpotlight turns to GOP’s McCarthy in Jan. 6 probe Biden visits union hall to mark Labor Day Biden approves disaster funds for NJ, NY after Ida flooding MORE’s climate comments on his trip to New York and New Jersey, House Democrats’ proposal for climate research and more in the reconciliation bill and a push to delay this year’s U.N. climate conference because of the pandemic.
Let’s jump in.
President pushes agenda during disaster tour
The White House on Tuesday asked Congress for billions in disaster aid as President Biden toured communities in New Jersey and New York ravaged by a recent hurricane.
Biden said the damage caused by Hurricane Ida reflects the new reality of climate change, which he described as an existential threat to U.S. communities and the economy. The trip was his second in less than a week to an area ravaged by the hurricane, and Biden used the visit to renew focus on his economic agenda to rebuild infrastructure and address climate change.
“People are beginning to realize this is much, much bigger than anyone was willing to believe,” Biden said in New York City’s Queens borough after touring a neighborhood pummeled by Hurricane Ida last week. “I think we’ve all seen, even the climate skeptics are seeing, that this really does matter.”
Biden called for “bold action” to tackle climate change in the form of his Build Back Better agenda.
So where’d he go? Biden toured flood damage in Queens and Manville, N.J. Dozens of people were killed in the two states after the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought devastating winds and dropped several inches of rain in a matter of hours, flooding roadways and homes and crippling New York City’s subway system.
Biden met with families whose homes were destroyed by floods and damaging winds, offering his condolences and expressing relief that the residents were able to evacuate in time.
And he wants Congress’s help: Administration officials also asked Congress on Tuesday for an estimated $24 billion in emergency aid to address natural disasters and extreme weather events. Officials said that, while the full extent of the damage from Ida is not currently known, they expect to need upwards of $10 billion in assistance for recovery efforts from the single hurricane alone, while previous storms and extreme weather require $14 billion in emergency aid.
Plus! Biden talks COP26: Biden affirmed on Tuesday that he’s planning to go to a major United Nations climate conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland, saying that both the U.S. and the rest of the world have to take climate action.
“I’m going to be heading … from here to Glasgow in Scotland for the [Conference of the Parties] COP meeting, which is all the nations of the world getting together deciding what we’re going to do about climate change,” Biden said while speaking in New York after Hurricane Ida.
He said that Special Climate Envoy John KerryJohn KerryHow will Biden’s Afghanistan debacle impact NASA’s Artemis return to the moon? Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Biden: ‘If they find me, they will kill me’ Kerry says world can’t solve climate crisis without China’s engagement, commitment MORE will lead the effort at the international conference set to take place in November.
“We are determined that we are going to deal with climate change and have … zero net emissions by 2050,” he said. “We’re going to be able to do these things, but we’ve got to move … and we’ve got to move the rest of the world.
Democrats propose new funding for climate, weather research
House Democrats on a key congressional panel are hoping to secure at least $2.6 billion in government funding for weather and climate change research at federal agencies.
The effort comes from Democratic members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s preparation to advance the panel’s $45.5 billion share of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that includes some of President Biden’s biggest legislative priorities.
The measures being proposed by Democrats on the committee would devote $1.2 billion for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) programs, such as forecasting events like tornadoes, drought, hurricanes and wildfires, and better understanding the effects of climate change on the ocean.
It also would put an additional $765 million toward NOAA research into climate adaptation and resilience.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, the proposal would put $264 million toward climate-related research and development activities, and at NASA it would put $388 million toward similar programs.
What else is in it? Other provisions in the committee’s bill would set aside about $1.2 billion for advancing nuclear fusion. It also would allocate $1.1 billion toward demonstration projects for wind, solar, geothermal and water energy, as well as vehicle, bioenergy and building technologies.
And it would create $80 million for grants that would help firefighters access supplies that are free of a class of toxic chemicals called PFAS, which can be found in many firefighting foams.
Groups press to delay UN summit
A coalition of more than 1,500 environmental groups spanning 130 countries is calling for an upcoming United Nations (U.N.) climate summit to be postponed amid spiking COVID-19 cases.
The Climate Action Network argued on Tuesday that proceeding with plans for the COP26 summit would increase the possibility that government delegates and journalists from developing countries would run into travel restrictions designed to combat the spread of coronavirus.
A climate-COVID-19 connection: Many of the nations that would be affected, Climate Action Network noted, are the countries already disproportionately affected by climate change.
“Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and those countries suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out of the talks and conspicuous in their absence at COP26,” Tasneem Essop, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the U.N. climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis.’’
Essop added that the attendance issues represent a “microcosm” of equity concerns about crafting international climate policy.
The White House is under increasing pressure to nominate a new energy regulator, weeks after it has been able to do so.
President Biden has been able to nominate a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) since June when former Commissioner Neil ChatterjeeNeil ChatterjeeAdvocates push White House to nominate energy regulator Lobbying world Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Feds target illegal gas practices MORE’s (R) term expired; however, he has yet to name a nominee for the five-member commission that has jurisdiction over interstate electricity transmission and natural gas infrastructure like pipelines.
Industry advocates say they want someone on the commission quickly.
“We really just cannot express enough the urgency to getting a fifth commissioner. There’s so many important decisions pending before FERC and we really would like to see a full complement,” said Amy Andryszak, president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America — a trade group that represents pipeline companies.
But others make a climate case: Rep. Sean CastenSean CastenAdvocates push White House to nominate energy regulator Overnight Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Schneider Electric — Deadly Ida floodwaters grip southeast US Democrat plugs ‘hot FERC summer’, sings to ‘FERCalicious’ on House floor MORE (D-Ill.), also stressed the importance of quickly appointing a FERC commissioner, arguing that it should have been done before Chatterjee, who had been serving under a grace period, stepped down at the end of August.
“It is really, really, really important that they nominate someone to FERC a month before Mr. Chatterjee steps down so that we can have a functioning FERC,” he told The Hill. “We have missed that window.”
“As long as we have at least two senators who think it’s more important to preserve the filibuster than to act on climate, the only real agency that can make a difference in figuring out how to get our electric sector clean … the only agency that’s really going to be able to do even a fraction of what’s necessary is FERC,” he said.
And everybody wants something: Some environmental advocates see this as an opportunity for the White House to put a climate champion on the commission.
Jean Su, the energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said she’s looking for a commissioner who “won’t rubber stamp pipelines.”
WHAT WE’RE READING
Bitcoin Uses More Electricity Than Many Countries. How Is That Possible?, The New York Times reports
At least 350 oil and chemical spills reported in Louisiana waters after Hurricane Ida, nola.com reports
In Australia, Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, 24-hour news channel to champion net zero emissions, the Sydney Morning Herald reports
A Climate Solution Lies Deep Under the Ocean—But Accessing It Could Have Huge Environmental Costs, TIME reports
World’s top three Christian leaders in climate appeal ahead of U.N. summit, Reuters reports
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Wednesday.