Dec 21, 2018

House Democrats tap Rep. Kathy Castor as climate panel leader

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.). Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

E&E News and the Tampa Bay Times report that House Democratic leaders have tentatively selected Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) to head the select committee on climate change they're reviving next year.

Why it matters: It's a tangible sign of the committee's makeup and direction. Castor represents a state and a region on the front lines of the effects of climate change, which is causing sea-level rise and more intense storms.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's office declined comment.

"We need to raise the profile of the climate crisis. People are demanding action and don't understand why we're not leading the world on climate change innovation."
— Rep. Kathy Castor to the Tampa Bay Times

The intrigue: Castor, first elected in 2006, has a 93% rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

But her remarks to E&E News rankled activists pushing Democrats to adopt Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's plan for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal. They envision the panel writing a sweeping climate, energy and economic legislative proposal that's ready for launch in 2020.

  • Castor told E&E News that Green New Deal advocates have some "terrific ideas," but added, "that's not going to be our sole focus."
  • Castor also signaled that she did not believe members who have taken money from fossil fuel interests should be barred from the committee, a goal of activists.
  • However, she later told HuffPost, "Maybe that's a discussion we need to have in the caucus."

What they're saying: "Without a mandate to create a plan and a requirement that its members don’t take fossil fuel money, we are deeply concerned that this committee will be just another of the many committees we've seen failing our generation our entire lives," said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement that's pushing Ocasio-Cortez's plan.

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,513,358 — Total deaths: 88,415 — Total recoveries: 329,329Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 430,376 — Total deaths: 14,739 — Total recoveries: 23,707Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Top Trump administration officials had been developing a plan to give cloth masks to huge numbers of Americans, but the idea lost traction amid heavy internal skepticism.
  4. States latest: New York has reported more cases than the most-affected countries in Europe. Chicago's Cook County jail is largest-known source of coronavirus in U.S.
  5. Business: One-third of U.S. jobs are at risk of disappearing, mostly affecting low-income workers.
  6. World: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to put politics aside "if you don’t want to have many more body bags.”
  7. Environment: COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.
  8. Tech: A new report recommends stimulus spending to help close the digital divide revealed by social distancing.
  9. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: New York tops previous day's record death toll

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New York's death toll surged to its highest one-day total on Wednesday — beating the previous day's record. 779 people died in the state in 24 hours. The state has reported more cases than the most-affected countries in Europe.

Why it matters: Public health officials have warned this would be a particularly deadly week for America, even as New York began to see declining trends of hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 35 mins ago - Health

The pandemic and pollution

New York City's skyline on a smoggy day in May 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.

Why it matters: Old-fashioned air pollution is almost certainly the single biggest environmental health threat, contributing to the deaths of some 7 million people a year according to the WHO, making it comparable to deaths from smoking.

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