LAMAR ALEXANDER: “I Believe Climate Change Is Real, Caused By Humans”

With so much going on right now, we almost missed Lamar Alexander saying something few Republicans will these days: That climate change is real, and caused by humans.

This is not something you hear Republicans say every day.

Donald Trump hasn’t admitted it. Most Republicans have spent their time recently mocking and misrepresenting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which attempts to address the realities of Climate Change in ambitious ways, but without offering ideas of their own.

Meanwhile President Trump has appointed a former coal lobbyist as the head of the EPA.

As a reminder, much of the dark money that funds these climate change denial efforts can be traced back to the Koch Brothers, who have a strong presence here in Tennessee.

In a Politico article today Alexander seems to be attempting to address that:

“I believe climate change is real. I believe humans are a major cause of it, and I think a new ‘Manhattan Project for Clean Energy’ is something that most Republicans could support, and I would hope most Democrats could too.”

The article also points out that more and more Americans see climate change as a major issue:

“Polls back up the importance of the issue for 2020. Likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, home of the nation’s first presidential caucus, now rank climate change as the second-most important topic facing the nation.”

Just last week high school kids across the globe walked out in an attempt to highlight the problem – a problem even Exxon’s own scientists have been warning them about for decades.

It remains to be seen how far Alexander is willing to go, and since his time is almost at an end it seems unlikely he’ll be able to see anything through, but it’s nice to see the ice around climate change denial begin to thaw even a little. Especially since the warnings lately have been extremely dire.

If you agree, holler at Lamar HERE.

Rep. Lynn Defends Extra Waste Because “Landfill-Mining” May Be A Thing One Day

Bill, written by corporate special interest group, aims to prohibit cities from regulating plastic containers

As local governments around the world are proposing rules to keep plastic out of rivers and lakes, Tennessee’s legislature is headed the opposite direction.

House Bill 1021, sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, District 57, would prohibit local governments from regulating single-use food containers, plastic grocery bags or eating tools, such as straws. The legislation appears to be copy-and-pasted from the website of corporate special interest group ALEC.

Lynn, who presented the legislation Monday, March 11 to the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee, consulted corporate lobbyists multiple times during her testimony. At one point, the committee chairman Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, District 46, called a five-minute recess, during which he, Lynn, Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, District 5, and the corporate lobbyists could be seen leaving the meeting together.

‘Alarming level of microplastics in the Tennessee River’
Though no local governments have enacted rules that would be affected by this preemption law, there is an excellent reason to enact regulations that reduce single-use plastic items: the Tennessee River is one of the most plastic-polluted rivers in the world.

A 2019 report, conducted by geology and hydrology professor Dr. Martin Knoll of the University of the South in Sewanee, said microplastic levels in the Tennessee River are among the highest ever measured.

The study concluded half — 48 percent — of the microplastic in the Tennessee River is polyethylene (plastic bags) and another 17 percent was polypropylene, a water-resistant plastic used widely in food packaging.

National Geographic, which also reported on the study, says freshwater rivers in the United States dump between 5 million and 14 million tons of mircoplastic into oceans each year.

“Scientists have found microplastics in 114 aquatic species, and more than half of those end up on our dinner plates… Enough research has been done now to show that the fish and shellfish we enjoy are suffering from the omnipresence of this plastic.”

Local control
Lynn’s bill to preempt local governments from enacting rules is part of a disturbing trend by the Republican majority to intrude on decisions best made by community leaders.

Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville, District 56, said cities — especially large cities that have challenges distinctly different from small communities — need autonomy to confront those issues.

“In Nashville, we have roughly 700,000 people. The amount of waste that’s produced by 700,000 people, as you can imagine, is fairly substantial,” Freeman said addressing the bill sponsor. “I struggle to understand why you would carry this bill that would essentially take away the ability from large cities that are dealing with this issue — any ability they would have to regulate issues that they see first hand… you have no issue with taking away a local government’s ability to regulate and manage themselves?”

Rep. Lynn responded, “I have no issue with taking this away from a local government. Are they next going to ban—I don’t know—your cereal box?”

Clean water concerns voiced
Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova, District 96, challenged the bill sponsor on why she would want to block a local government seeking rules that protect Tennessee’s lakes and rivers.

“I’m committed, like Rep. Freeman, to a great business climate here, but I’m also committed to a clean and healthy environment for our families here to live in,” Thompson said.

At one point, Rep. Lynn appeared to argue in favor of the bill, which will protect plastic solid waste, by suggesting that “someday our landfills will be mined for items that might be of some value.”

Procedural snag
The House Consumer and Human Resources Committee will hear the bill again March 18.

During the meeting on March 11, Rep. Hawk voiced support for the bill, but protested the procedure because Rep. Lynn did not present an amendment to the bill being considered by the Senate.

Part of the reason for the late amendment from the Senate was that the bill was initially filed as a caption bill to change the deadline for counties to provide updated maps to the legislature. (Note: A caption bill is a legislative placeholder that sometimes has nothing to do with its initial stated purpose.) As of this writing, the legislature’s website has still not updated the bill with Lynn’s amendment, which re-writes the entire bill miles away from its starting position.

After the recess called by chairman Boyd, Rep. Lynn agreed to delay a vote until next week.

How they’ve voted so far:
House Consumer Subcommittee passed the bill on a Voice Vote, Ayes Prevailing:
Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, District 49
Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, District 46
Rep. Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, District 23
Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, District 5
Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, District 21
Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, District 86

You can watch the full committee hearing here.

President Rewards Campaign Donor By Pressuring TVA

Yesterday, in a tweet, President Trump publicly pressured the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep a coal-fired power plant open even though the TVA has concluded the plant is unreliable, no longer needed, and too expensive to repair and operate.

The TVA board is slated to vote on the future of Paradise Unit 3 in just a few days, which is why the pressure is coming now.

Paradise Unit 3 just so happens to get the bulk of its coal from a subsidiary of Murray Energy, a mining company whose CEO Robert Murray, is a major Trump supporter who has asked the president to take other actions to help the ailing coal industry, particularly in regions where he sells coal. (Imagine that!)

This kind of pay-to-play has proven to be par for the course in this administration, but it doesn’t make it any less noteworthy. Murray gave $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration, and Trump is on track to meet most of his demands.

The list of Trump donors who have issued demands is as long as the day.

Rachel Maddow had a segment on it last night, calling it “simple corruption”:

Trump isn’t alone. Kentucky’s Governor is pressuring the TVA also – calling it a “national defense issue”, as is Mitch McConnell.

This is all just more of our politicians, who get large amounts of their campaign funding from the Koch brothers networks and others in the oil and gas industry, doing all they can to prop up the coal industry despite its obvious decline, more economically sound alternatives are on the rise.

From the Courier-Journal:

At a pro-coal rally over the weekend, the governor joined representatives of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul and other Kentucky officials to pressure the TVA board, which meets this week, to keep burning Kentucky-mined coal at the Paradise plant.

“We sit on hundreds of years of supply of the most reliable, most stable, most affordable source of electricity production that the world has ever known,” Bevin said. “There is no capacity now if we shut this facility and others like it to provide what America needs.”

The new environmental assessment by TVA, however, found that energy demand in the utility’s Southeast region was “flat to declining.” The study concluded that “the retirement of a unit with high maintenance and other costs would facilitate TVA’s statutory mission to provide reliable power at the lowest system cost.”