Energy & Environment — Disasters displaced 3 million Americans last year 

Natural disasters displaced millions of Americans last year, data shows. Meanwhile, the House Natural Resources Committee gets new Republicans — and one returnee who was stripped of his assignments in the past.  

This is Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter?

Millions displaced by natural disasters in 2022 

Natural disasters displaced more than 3 million Americans in 2022, including nearly
1 million in Florida alone, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau

The data, first reported by Pluribus News, indicates that about 3.33 million people were displaced by natural disasters over the past year. The plurality were in Florida, where such events forced 999,401 people — about 7 percent of the state’s population — from their homes.  

The state was hit in September by Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in the southwest part of the state, killing at least 114 people and costing up to $65 billion in insured losses

  • Louisiana saw a smaller number of people displaced, but a greater share of the population. The Census Bureau found 410,000 Louisianans, or 15 percent of the state’s population, were displaced last year. Natural disasters affecting the state in 2022 included multiple tornadoes, including a December outbreak that killed at least three people.  
  • Small New England, Midwestern and Great Plains states saw the lowest percentage of their residents displaced by natural disasters in the last year, according to the census data. Indiana, Maine, North Dakota and Ohio all saw about 0.2 percent of residents displaced by disasters in 2022. 

The United Nations’ refugee agency has identified natural disaster displacement as one of climate change’s “most devastating” impacts. 

Read more about the displacements here.  

GOSAR RETURNS TO NATURAL RESOURCES

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) was reassigned to the House Natural Resources Committee Tuesday after the then-Democratic majority voted to strip his committee assignments in 2021.  

Gosar, along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (Ga.), was one of two Republican members stripped of their committee assignments during the 117th Congress. The vote come after Gosar, long a promoter of baseless claims about widespread fraud in the 2020 election, tweeted an anime video seemingly depicting him killing
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Before the vote, Gosar had served on the committee since his election to Congress in 2010, at one point serving as ranking member on its Oversight subcommittee.  

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had previously pledged to restore both Gosar’s and Greene’s committee assignments, as well as explore stripping the committee assignments of Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (Calif.).   

Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) confirmed Gosar’s membership Tuesday afternoon, also confirming seven new House Republican members:

  • Mike Collins (Ga.)
  • John Duarte (Calif.)
  • Harriet Hageman (Wyo.)
  • Wesley Hunt (Texas), Jen Kiggans (Va.)
  • Anna Luna (Fla.)
  • James Moylan (Guam)

Read more about Gosar getting his committee assignment back.  

Heavy rains may provide Calif. some drought relief

Heavy rains in California have led to more than a dozen deaths and widespread destruction, but they are also offering at least a temporary reprieve from the historic drought that has plagued the state. 

Over the past couple of weeks, California has seen torrential rain, as well as snow, sparking power outages and putting thousands under either evacuation or shelter-in-place orders. The extent to which the series of storms will make a long-term difference in the state’s drought, however, is more of an open question.  

“It’s definitely too early to say that we’re out of the drought, so to speak,” said Andrew Ayres, research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center. But, he added, it has been a “really good start” for the year in terms of precipitation and snowpack.  

As of last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said that just 0.32 percent of California was under “extreme drought,” down from 27 percent of the state the week prior and 41 percent last month. 

“We have seen improvement in drought conditions,” said Andrea Bair, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “We’ve increased our soil moisture and built those mountain snowpacks up even further to above-normal conditions.”  

However:  

  • Bair said, “we do have a long-term term drought that has persisted in much of the West for years.” 
  • “The reservoir deficits are huge, very deep soil moisture deficits, significant groundwater depletion,” she added. “Those kinds of things take longer to overcome and to completely recover from.” 

Read more about the situation here.  

EU LOOKS TO COMPETE IN GREEN ENERGY TRANSITION 

The EU plans to fight for its place in the clean energy race.  

Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday that the European Union will create extensive new clean energy subsidies to keep firms from moving to the U.S. and China. 

The goal is for the EU to become a leader in the transition to a clean economy and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 — and von der Leyen said that both carrots and sticks were on the  

The EU’s plans appear to involve heavy subsidies of its own to compete with the U.S. and China. Von der Leyen also announced that the organization will temporarily adapt the EU state aid rules to speed up and simplify permitting for clean energy production. 

Read more here, from The Hill’s Saul Elbein. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • How dark money groups led Ohio to redefine gas as ‘green energy’ (The Washington Post
  • U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry Stands By 1.5-Degree Climate Goal (The Wall Street Journal
  • England Is Banning Some Single-Use Plastics. Activists Say It’s a Small Step. (The New York Times
  • Atmospheric dust may have hidden true extent of global heating (The Guardian
  • Texas Power Plants Swore They Were Ready for the Next Big Freeze. Many Weren’t. (Texas Monthly

MORE FROM THE HILL

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 tomorrow.  

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