Congressional Science Policy Initiative

Committee hearing resource | House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change

                                       Source: House Committee on Energy and Commerce

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change hearing: Federal Climate Leadership
Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at noon ET
Anna Fendley, MPH, Director of Regulatory and State Policy, United Steelworkers (USW)
Christy Goldfuss, Senior Vice President, Energy and Environment Policy, Center for American Progress
Mark Mills, Senior Fellow, The Manhattan Institute
Kerene N. Tayloe, Esq., Director of Federal Legislative Affairs, WE ACT for Environmental Justice

Evidence-based sample questions lawmakers could ask witnesses. Please share yours for lawmakers.

More sample questions will be added as objective contributions are received from the expert community. Kindly submit your idea via the form below. Last updated Friday 2/5/2021.

Creating New Jobs for Fossil Fuel Dependent Communities

73% of all oil, coal, and natural gas production jobs are in just 10 states. Through the transition to decarbonization, these jobs and the communities that host them are at risk.

In your view, how should the Department of Energy, particularly its Energy Jobs Strategy Council, account for the impact of decarbonization on fossil fuel dependent communities?

(Contributed by the Day One Project.)

Building Disaster Resilience Against Climate Emergencies

The frequency and cost of billion-dollar weather and climate emergencies have both increased significantly over the past decade, leading to increased displacement, loss of life, and other damaging consequences for marginalized and disadvantaged communities. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s estimates, the direct costs of disasters between 2018 and 2019 amounted to over $136 billion. Due to the climate gap, poor communities of color bear the brunt of climate disasters.

In your view, how can FEMA build disaster resilience against climate emergencies in communities, particularly those that are historically marginalized and disadvantaged?

(Contributed by the Day One Project.)

Addressing the Environmental Impact of Single Use PPE

During the COVID-19 crisis, Citizen Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use has resulted in an estimated global monthly usage of 129 billion masks and 65 billion gloves. Conservationists warn there may be “more masks than jellyfish in the sea” soon. The damage from the PPE plastic contamination to soil and water quality may also create new breeding grounds for disease vectors and threaten food security.

In your view, how can the EPA address and reduce the plastic pollution arising from single use PPE during the COVID-19 crisis?

(Contributed by the Day One Project.)

Developing Proactive Approaches to Wildfire Management

In 2020, the Western United States experienced a record-setting year of catastrophic wildfires. Human-caused climate change has increased the burn area 900% since 1984, leading to more severe incidents and increasing carbon emissions that drive climate change. Since 2008, deaths have doubled as a result of wildfires and there has been a 60% increase in wildfire damage costs.

What, in your view, is the strategy for proactive wildfire management that the Council on Environmental Quality, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and the National Park Service, among others, should develop?

(Contributed by the Day One Project.)

Clean Energy Storage

Improved energy storage technologies would expand the range of low-carbon pathways available to fight climate change—especially those relying on variable renewable energy resources, like wind and solar power.  However, the most comprehensive estimate of federal R&D spending on energy storage comes from a 2015 OMB interagency “crosscut”: $300 million.  

In your view, is this a sufficient level of federal investment for energy storage technologies? Please explain.

(Contributed by the Day One Project.)

Protecting the environment from greenhouse gas emissions

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) were used in a wide range of common objects, such as refrigeration, air conditioning, and aerosols. They also damage the ozone layer, contribute to dangerous UV exposure, and accelerate climate change. Gases such as methane are also contributing to the warming of our planet.

In 1987, the U.S. signed on to the Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals by 2030, and in 2015, the U.S. again pledged its willingness to mitigate climate change by signing on to the Paris Agreement, before the Trump administration withdrew from it.

During this new Administration, please explain what you see as the role of the US government in controlling the emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases such as methane and HCFCs.

Addressing the burning of biomass to produce energy

Many have asserted that the burning of biomass, such as wood, is a carbon neutral source of energy. However, clearing sections of forest to obtain wood for burning can release more carbon into the atmosphere than would be saved, and the negative impacts from this can take decades to subside. In addition, producing and burning wood pellets, which is a growing industry in the southeastern U.S., can release as much or even more carbon dioxide than burning coal.

What should be done to ensure that the federal government develops evidence-based policies regarding the burning of biomass that prioritize the health of the environment and our communities?

The effect of air pollution on crops

Studies have shown that air pollutants can have a negative effect on plant growth and their absorption of nutrients from the soil. Researchers suggest that pollution is likely causing yield losses between 5 percent and 12 percent for staple crops like rice, wheat, and soybeans.

What should the US government do to reduce air pollutants and protect these crops?

Addressing pesticides that threaten the health of people and wildlife

Some pesticides in regular use in the US are considered a risk to people and wildlife, including bees and other pollinators. In recent years, the European Commission has disallowed the outdoor use of some of these pesticides.

In your view, does the US government need to go further in addressing the risks of these types of pesticides (the so-called neonicotinoids)?

Disproportionate impacts of particulate pollution on different communities

Marginalized communities are often exposed to more particulate matter pollution than higher-resourced communities. These tiny particle pollutants are associated with health problems such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, diabetes, and neurological problems.

What, in your view, should the US government do to monitor particulate matter pollutants in different neighborhoods, and what should be done to help communities that are more greatly impacted?

Contaminants of emerging concern

Over the past 30 years or so, studies have demonstrated how a variety of chemicals, industrial pollutants, and human by-products are making their way into the environment. Many are known as “contaminants of emerging concern,” and include medicines, personal care or household cleaning products, and lawn care and agricultural products.

What is your perspective on how the powers of the federal government should be leveraged to address these chemicals?

Indigenous researchers and environmental protection

The US faces many environmental challenges, from wildfires to invasive species. Perspectives from a diverse set of researchers are necessary to comprehensively address these challenges. But in the US, Native Americans are underrepresented in STEM fields. 

What is your perspective on the federal government’s role in encouraging the inclusion of Indigenous researchers – and Indigenous knowledge – in efforts to counter threats to the environment?

Planning for different scenarios of where pollution is generated

The purchase of electric cars is forecast to increase. As the transportation sector becomes electrified, there may be a scenario where the majority of pollution is produced from point sources, such as power plants that use fossil fuels. A significant portion of the US power grid will continue to be dependent on fossil fuels before the country can achieve 100% clean energy.

This could create more regional air quality issues. How should the US government prepare for this possibility?

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Your question could be here!

Nonpartisan analysis and research

Quick reads

Climate Change and the Nation’s Most Contaminated Hazardous Waste Sites – GAO Watchblog post

Climate Change, Global Migration, and U.S. Government Actions – GAO Watchblog post

A Brief Comparison of Two Climate Change Mitigation Approaches: Cap-and-Trade and Carbon Tax (or Fee) – CRS In Focus brief

Climate Change and the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 (S.2302) – CRS In Focus brief

Weather and Climate Change: What’s the Difference? – CRS In Focus brief

Deep dives

Potential Economic Costs and Opportunities to Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure – GAO report

A Climate Migration Pilot Program Could Enhance the Nation’s Resilience and Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure – GAO report

A Strategic Investment Approach for High-Priority Projects Could Help Target Federal Resources – GAO report

Climate Change Science: Key Points – CRS report

Climate Change Adaption: U.S. Department of Agriculture – CRS report

Evolving Assessments of Human and Natural Contributions to Climate Change – CRS report

Supplemental resources

Press clips

Could Climate Change Be More Extreme Than We Think? – The Atlantic piece

‘A big promise’: Biden’s climate spending pledge faces early test – Politico piece

Biden’s climate change plan and the battle for America’s most threatened workers – CNBC piece

How Fast Will Biden Need To Move On Climate? Really, Really Fast – NPR piece

This popular and proven climate policy should be at the top of Congress’s to-do list – Vox piece

Congressional correspondence

Letter from Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to Congressional leaders urging them to prioritize a clean energy recovery plan

Letter from Congressman Paul Tonko and his colleagues calling on the EPA Administrator to withdraw a policy which would restrict the types of data usable for environmental policy

Letter from Congressman David McKinley (R-WV) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking for an update on the agency’s efforts to ensure the resilience of the electric grid

Bipartisan bills

Climate Resilient Communities Act, H.R.5709

International Climate Accountability Act, S.1743

Challenges and Prizes for Climate Act of 2019, H.R.3100

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