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Politics: Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden urges climate action amid Ida devastation

AP PHOTOS: Rescues, power outages in aftermath of Ida

  AP PHOTOS: Rescues, power outages in aftermath of Ida Louisiana communities battered by Hurricane Ida are facing a new danger: the possibility of weeks without power in the stifling, late-summer heat. Ida ravaged the region’s power grid, leaving the entire city of New Orleans and hundreds of thousands of other Louisiana residents in the dark with no clear timeline on when power would return. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said 25,000 utility workers were in the state to help restore electricity, with more on the way. Officials say it could be weeks before electricity is restored in some spots. At least four deaths were blamed on the storm.

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.

Life in Louisiana's boot challenging, adventuresome post-Ida

  Life in Louisiana's boot challenging, adventuresome post-Ida BELLE CHASSE, La. (AP) — Life in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish is a mix of frustration and a little adventure since Hurricane Ida, with cowboys wrangling loose cattle on a highway, residents navigating alligator-infested floodwaters to get home and thousands waiting in long lines for gas and food. On the plus side, no one died during the Category 4 storm in this narrow spit of soggy land southeast of New Orleans. On the down side, thousands of homes are damaged, many lack power and water and no one is sure when things will get back to normal.

Biden tours Ida disaster site © Getty images Biden tours Ida disaster site

Today we're looking at President Biden'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.

For The Hill, we're Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

Biden tells storm-ravaged Louisiana: 'I know you're hurting'

  Biden tells storm-ravaged Louisiana: 'I know you're hurting' LAPLACE, La. (AP) — Giant trees knocked sideways. Homes boarded up with plywood. Off-kilter street signs. Less than a week after Hurricane Ida battered the Gulf Coast, President Joe Biden walked the streets of a hardhit Louisiana neighborhood and told local residents, “I know you're hurting, I know you're hurting.” Biden pledged robust federal assistance to get people back on their feet and said the government already had distributed $100 million directly to individuals in the state in $500 checks to give them a first slice of critical help. Many people, he said, don't know what help is available because they can't get cellphone service.

Let's jump in.

President pushes agenda during disaster tour

[[{"fid":"240469","view_mode":"wysiwyg","fields":{"format":"wysiwyg","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"destroyed house in new jersey hurricane ida","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_url[und][0][value]":"Getty images","field_free_html[und][0][value]":"","field_free_html[und][0][format]":"full_html"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"wysiwyg","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"destroyed house in new jersey hurricane ida","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_url[und][0][value]":"Getty images","field_free_html[und][0][value]":"","field_free_html[und][0][format]":"full_html"}},"attributes":{"alt":"destroyed house in new jersey hurricane ida","height":363,"width":645,"class":"media-element file-wysiwyg","data-delta":"1"}}]]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.

Hurricane Ida evacuees urged to return to New Orleans

  Hurricane Ida evacuees urged to return to New Orleans NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With power due back for almost all of New Orleans by next week, Mayor LaToya Cantrell strongly encouraged residents who evacuated because of Hurricane Ida to begin returning home. But outside the city, the prospects of recovery appeared bleaker, with no timeline on power restoration and homes and businesses in tatters. Six days after Hurricane Ida made landfall, hard-hit parts of Louisiana were still struggling to restore any sense of normalcy. Even around New Orleans, a continued lack of power for most residents made a sultry stretch of summer hard to bear and added to woes in the aftermath of Ida.

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.

New York City was never built to withstand a deluge like the one Ida delivered. It showed.

  New York City was never built to withstand a deluge like the one Ida delivered. It showed. From the heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest to the damage strewn from Louisiana to the Northeast by Ida, the floods are just the latest example of how ill-prepared America is for what climate change has in store. Climatologist Kim Cobb, director of the Global Change Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, warned that New York, like many cities, was clearly not prepared to deal with climate-related and weather disasters such as Storm Ida.

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.

Lawmakers: Ida damage shows need for infrastructure upgrades

  Lawmakers: Ida damage shows need for infrastructure upgrades WASHINGTON (AP) — Shaken by haunting images of surging rivers, flooded roads and subways and other damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, lawmakers from both parties are vowing to upgrade the nation's aging infrastructure network. As the deadly storm moved from the Gulf Coast through the Northeast, members of Congress said the deluge offered irrefutable evidence that power lines, roads, bridges and other infrastructure are deteriorating even as storms and other extreme weather are strengthening.

He said that Special Climate Envoy John Kerry 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.

Read more about his trip to NJ/NY here and his comments about the climate conference here.

Hurricane Ida power outages, misery persist 9 days later

  Hurricane Ida power outages, misery persist 9 days later LaPLACE, La. (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in Louisiana, most of them outside New Orleans, still didn’t have power Tuesday and more than half the gas stations in two major cities were without fuel nine days after Hurricane Ida slammed into the state, splintering homes and toppling electric lines. There were also continuing signs of recovery, however, as the total number of people without electricity has fallen from more than a million at its peak, while hundreds of thousands of people have had their water restored.

Democrats propose new funding for climate, weather research

a sign on a pole © Provided by The Hill

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.

From COVID to Ida: Louisiana's marginalized 'see no way out'

  From COVID to Ida: Louisiana's marginalized 'see no way out' Darkness set in for Natasha Blunt well before Hurricane Ida knocked out power across Louisiana. Months into the pandemic, she faced eviction from her New Orleans apartment. She lost her job at a banquet hall. She suffered two strokes. And she struggled to help her 5-year-old grandson keep up with schoolwork at home.Like nearly a fifth of the state’s population — disproportionately represented by Black residents and women — Blunt, 51, lives below the poverty line, and the economic fallout of the pandemic sent her to the brink.

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.

Read more about the legislation here.

Groups press to delay UN summit

graffiti on a wall © Provided by The Hill

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.

Read more about the push here.

REGU-LATER?

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 Chatterjee'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 Casten (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."

Read more about the situation here.

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

ICYMI

  • Virginia Democrat introduces tax credit for electric commercial vehicles
  • Toyota spending $13.5B on battery development for electric vehicles by end of decade
  • More than 400K without power nine days after Ida hits Louisiana
  • Caldor Fire cools, but California faces a dozen new fires
  • South Lake Tahoe evacuation orders lifted as firefighters make progress
  • Shipping group submits plan to UN for global carbon tax
  • New Zealand reports warmest recorded winter, scientists cite climate change
  • Group says almost 30 percent of species on watch list face extinction
  • Over 30 percent of Americans experienced summer weather disaster: analysis
  • New Orleans could see power back by middle of week, officials say
  • And finally, something off-beat and offbeat: Great for anniversaries

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.

From COVID to Ida: Louisiana's marginalized 'see no way out' .
Darkness set in for Natasha Blunt well before Hurricane Ida knocked out power across Louisiana. Months into the pandemic, she faced eviction from her New Orleans apartment. She lost her job at a banquet hall. She suffered two strokes. And she struggled to help her 5-year-old grandson keep up with schoolwork at home.Like nearly a fifth of the state’s population — disproportionately represented by Black residents and women — Blunt, 51, lives below the poverty line, and the economic fallout of the pandemic sent her to the brink.

See also