The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Two House Republicans Block Passage of Long-Awaited Disaster Aid
For the second time in five days, a single House Republican has blocked the passage of a $19.1 billion disaster package long-awaited by survivors of the climate-change related disasters that have devastated U.S. communities in the last two years.
The bill passed the Senate Thursday after President Donald Trump agreed to sign off on $900 million to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria and to seek funding for the Southern border in a separate bill.
The House then attempted to pass the bill via unanimous consent Friday. Most House members had already left for the Memorial Day recess by the time the Senate bill passed, CNN reported. But Texas Republican Representative Chip Roy blocked the effort Friday. A second attempt to pass the bill Tuesday was blocked by Kentucky Republican Representative Thomas Massie.
"If the speaker felt that this was must-pass legislation the speaker should have called a vote before sending members home," Massie said, according to The New York Times.
Massie argued that there should be a roll call on such a large bill and that there was no actual plan to pay for the disaster aid, according to Reuters.
"Everybody wants to be a hero by coming in and writing checks (for disaster aid). Those checks aren't backed up by anything. We're borrowing the money for all of this," Massie said, as Reuters reported.
Roy had called trying to pass the bill during the recess "a very swampy thing to do" and also objected to the fact that it did not include the around $4.5 billion that Trump had originally requested for the border, according to The New York Times.
However, supporters of the bill say it is sure to pass when lawmakers return in early June, and that delaying it puts unnecessary strain on the farmers and disaster victims waiting for aid.
"The bill is going to be signed into law before the end of the first week of June," Georgia Republican Rep. Austin Scott said after Roy blocked it, as The New York Times reported. "Quite honestly, it's a childish stunt."
The bill responds to the wildfires, hurricanes and record flooding that have impacted U.S. communities in the past two years. It would help farmers recoup crop losses and repair infrastructure, including military bases. It would also extend a national flood insurance program set to expire Friday, Reuters reported.
"Today's heartless objection once again delays desperately needed relief for families and communities across the country," Democratic New York Rep. Nita Lowey tweeted Tuesday.
The House's Republican leadership had agreed not to obstruct passage of the bill over the recess, CNN reported, but had also warned that individual members might try to stall it.
House Democrats will attempt to pass the bill again Thursday, but that attempt could also be blocked by a single Republican, according to The New York Times. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the bill would pass "overwhelmingly" when House members return from the recess the first week of June, Reuters reported.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
- Newark Water Filters Are Working, Tests Suggest - EcoWatch ›
- Newark's Lead Crisis Escalates - EcoWatch ›
- Mice exposed to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor developed lung cancer within a year.
- More research is needed to know what this means for people who vape.
- Other research has shown that vaping can cause damage to lung tissue.
A new study found that long-term exposure to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor increases the risk of cancer in mice.
Six months: That's how much time Mexico now has to report on its progress to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) from extinction.
It may seem innocuous to flush a Q-tip down the toilet, but those bits of plastic have been washing up on beaches and pose a threat to the birds, turtles and marine life that call those beaches home. The scourge of plastic "nurdles," as they are called, has pushed Scotland to implement a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, as the BBC reported.
By Tim Radford
Scientists in the U.S. have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.
Oscar-award winning actress and long-time political activist Jane Fonda was arrested on the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Friday for peacefully protesting the U.S. government's inaction in combating the climate crisis, according to the AP.
By Caroline Hickman
I'm up late at night worrying that my baby brothers may die from global warming and other threats to humanity – please can you put my mind at rest? – Sophie, aged 17, East Sussex, UK