environment

Federal money hasn’t reached disaster victims
Long after hurricanes, red tape leaves relief aid unspent

A man rides a bike in Loiza, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria in 2017. The island’s nearly $20 billion in aid from a Department of Housing and Urban Development program has been mired in a clunky bureaucratic process. (Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images file photo)

It’s been more than a year and a half since Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico in September 2017, killing roughly 3,000 people and causing an estimated $90 billion in damages.

But federal money for any long-term rebuilding has yet to reach those in need in the U.S. territory, which was also battered by Hurricane Irma that same month.

‘Inconvenient Truth’ producer tackles climate change again — just without saying it
The romance of farm life clashes with environmental reality in Laurie David’s latest project, ‘The Biggest Little Farm’

Laurie David’s latest project has less Al Gore, more oinking pigs. (Elissa Federoff/NEON)

Rising at dawn to milk the cows. Watching pigs root around in dirt. Listening to cute baby goats bleating while they munch on grass. Grabbing a shotgun to dispose of the coyotes terrorizing your chicken coop. Yes, farming can be romantic, but the reality of creating your own complex, self-sustaining ecosystem is not.

That’s the closest thing to myth-busting you’ll get from “The Biggest Little Farm,” the latest project from producer Laurie David. Thirteen years ago, she gave us “An Inconvenient Truth,” with its flow charts and heavy-handed appeals to science. The nasal intonations of former Vice President Al Gore were the righteous cherry on top.

Interior Department policy let political appointees review FOIA requests
So-called awareness review process could expose department to legal action

A public records request for emails between a National Park Service official and Lolita Zinke, above, wife of former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, was originally estimated to potentially yield 96 pages of communication. It ended up being 16 pages long after being put through the awareness review process.  (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

The Interior Department has for about a year allowed political appointees to weigh in on which federal records are released to the public, creating delays that could violate open records law and expose the department to legal action.

“If political officials are becoming involved in the process and as a result of that causes the agency to not comply with its obligations” under the Freedom of Information Act, “that is a serious problem,” said Adam Marshall, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

Eyeing hotter future, industry lays carbon tax groundwork
Business bigwigs head to the Hill this week to push climate legislation

Advocates for fighting global warming will get a boost from corporate firms advocating for a carbon tax. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Representatives from credit card firm Capital One, tech giant Microsoft, home-goods maker Johnson & Johnson and dozens of other companies are coming to Capitol Hill this week to do something unusual: Call for a new tax.

Officials from more than 75 companies will press Congress on Wednesday to pass climate legislation, including a “meaningful” national price on carbon emissions, according to Ceres, a sustainable investment group behind the effort.

Trump drags feet on climate treaty, and Republicans aren’t happy
As Kigali Amendment languishes, Sens. Kennedy, Carper point fingers at the administration

Hydrofluorocarbons — found in air conditioners — are worse for the climate than carbon dioxide. A plan to limit them has bipartisan support, but the Trump administration is standing in the way, Republican senators say. (iStock/Composite by Jason Mann)

It has the support of industry heavy-hitters, environmental advocates and a bipartisan cushion of votes in the Senate.

But the Kigali Amendment, a global treaty to limit hydrofluorocarbons — highly potent greenhouse gases found in air conditioners, refrigerators, insulation and foam — is stuck.

Trump seeks weaker protections, as 1 million species face extinction
A new UN report says the 1 million plants and animals identified, could be extinct within decades, amid a ‘mass extinction event’

Adaeze, an 18-month-old cheetah, from the Leo Zoo, in Greenwich, Ct., stares at news photographers following a briefing on "Combating Threats to the Cheetah, Africa's Most Endangered Big Cat, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, April 25, 2016 A new UN report says the 1 million plants and animals identified, could be extinct within decades, it says, amid a “mass extinction event” (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo).

Humans have pushed about 1 million varieties of plants and animals to the brink of extinction, according to a new United Nations report that arrives as congressional Republicans and the Trump administration try to diminish endangered species protections in the United States.

Many of the species identified in the report could be extinct within decades, the report says, amid a “mass extinction event” caused by humans putting more flora and fauna on the edge of eradication than ever before in their history. By transforming land and waterways, exploiting organisms, polluting, shifting species’ habitats and fueling climate change, humanity has eroded nature dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, according to the authors.

House passes climate bill, with few Republican backers
The bill blocks funding for the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., takes a selfie with climate activists outside of the Capitol after the House passed the Climate Action Now resolution on Thursday, May 2, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed a bill Thursday to block funding for the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and force the White House to share yearly plans of how it will meet its obligations under that deal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made the legislation a priority, and three Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the bill.

Here are the 3 Republicans who bucked Trump on the Paris climate accord
No Democrat broke party ranks, while 4 in GOP did not vote

Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan joined two of his Republican colleagues in siding with Democrats on Thursday’s climate vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Three Republicans — including two from safe seats — sided with Democrats on Thursday in voting for a measure that would stop President Donald Trump from pulling out of the Paris climate accord.

The bill passed the House, 231-190. Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Vern Buchanan of Florida voted with the Democrats. Four Republicans — including Florida’s Francis Rooney, who’s been an outspoken Republican voice on the dangers of climate change — did not vote. He’s in Florida recovering from knee replacement surgery. 

Paris climate bill will send a message and test Republicans
The vote fulfills a Democratic priority, and may reveal if GOP members will vote for a measure contradicting administration policy

Rep. Matt Gaetz, F-Fla., conducts a news conference at the House Triangle to unveil climate change legislation the Green Real Deal, on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. He said just because Earth is warming, and humans contributed, doesn't mean a "good deal" was reached in the Paris climate accord. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the House votes Thursday on legislation to stop President Donald Trump from pulling the nation out of the Paris climate agreement, debate in the chamber Wednesday centered on whether the deal would hurt or help the economy.

While the bill has nearly zero chance of passing in the Republican-held Senate and Trump has threatened to veto it if it reaches his desk, it’s a legislative priority for House Democrats who say the administration does not take climate change seriously and has missed opportunities to boost energy industries that produce fewer carbon emissions like wind and solar power.

Road ahead: More on the Mueller report; floor action on Paris bill, nominations
Oversight matters will get most attention post-Mueller but House and Senate proceeding with normal business too

Attorney General William Barr appears on a television in the Capitol subway on April 18, 2019. He is testifying before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Two days of testimony from Attorney General William Barr on the 448-page report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will largely define Congress’ return from its two-week recess, with the House and Senate heading in different directions. 

Senate Republicans, who will hear from Barr first on Wednesday, feel Mueller’s report is the appropriate conclusion to years of investigations into allegations that President Donald Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 election and that the president himself attempted to obstruct those investigations.