Democrats call for backing EPA union, testing Biden’s pro-Labour pledge

Hello and welcome to The Climate 202! Shanah tovah to all watching readers Rosh Hashanah.

Below we have an interview with Senator Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) on his licensing reform bill, courtesy of our colleagues at The Early 202. (Sign up for The Early 202 here.) But first:

Exclusive: Biden has vowed to be ‘the most pro-union president’. Congressional Democrats are testing that commitment.

More than 80 congressional Democrats are asking the Biden administration to support the proposals of the Environmental Protection Agency‘s largest union in ongoing contract negotiations, according to details shared exclusively with The Climate 202.

In a letter sent Monday to the EPA Administrator Michael ReganDemocrats have urged the agency’s political leadership to agree to the demands of the Council of the American Federation of Government Employees 238which represents more than 7,500 EPA employees.

“At a time when the EPA is administering historic funding levels, it is imperative that career EPA employees be supported by the political leadership of the agency,” the lawmakers wrote. “Improving rights and protections for EPA employees is essential to recruiting and retaining the talented and diverse workforce needed to fulfill the agency’s mission to fight climate change, improve environmental justice and to protect public health and the environment.”

The letter poses a key test of President Biden’s efforts to position himself as the “the most pro-union president” in American history. The union and its allies are trying to leverage that commitment — along with the administration’s willingness to quickly implement the climate provisions of the Cut Inflation Act — to secure its goals at the table. of negotiation.

The letter was directed by Representative Paul Tonko (New York) and Diana DeGette (Col.). Signatories include Meaning Elizabeth Warren (Mass) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as well as House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (New York) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (NEW JERSEY).

Marie Owens Powell, president of AFGE Council 238, said she was “delighted” to have the support of the legislator. She added that the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act injected a “sense of urgency” into contract negotiations.

“We cannot afford to lose any more of our current workforce,” Powell said. “They have the knowledge that we need to pass on to newcomers with this funding increase.”

Invited to Comment, EPA Deputy Principal Deputy Administrator Nancy Grantham said in an email: “We will review the letter. EPA unions are at the heart of a thriving workforce, and the agency is committed to maintaining positive and productive working relationships with our union partners.

In the letter, Democrats expressed concern that some EPA employees are being passed over for promotions. In particular, they wrote that many employees seem to stagnate at the GS-12 level, despite performing the work of a GS-13.

“The practice of keeping employees in a GS-12, with the pay and benefits of a GS-12, will only risk draining the EPA workforce as employees seek better opportunities with room for growth in the private sector,” the letter reads.

Democrats also urged the agency’s political leaders to accept the union’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) proposals, including the use of blind hiring practices, in which Candidates’ personal information is removed from their CVs.

“Using a blind hiring practice will prevent implicit biases from seeping into hiring decisions, while ensuring a diverse workforce in terms of backgrounds and ideas,” wrote the legislators.

The union has requested that an article on DEI and accessibility be included in the next collective agreement. Although the agency agreed to include such an article, “the devil is always in the details,” Powell said.

AFGE and the agency are due to conclude a new contract in June 2024. But Powell said the union wanted to finalize the contract “as soon as possible” to lock in protections ahead of a possible change in administration, should a candidate less favorable to workers win the 2024 presidential election.

Overall, Powell said the Biden administration had been much more accommodating in contract negotiations than the Trump administration, which cracked down on federal unions and limited the use of paid working hours for union business.

The crackdown has been particularly acute at the EPA, where political leaders imposed a contract in 2019 following AFGE protests that curtailed telecommuting, curtailed the grievance process and forced union officials out. agency offices.

“AFGE’s position is that we remind the agency of the president’s clearly pro-Labour leadership,” Powell said. “So we must continually challenge the agency to think outside the box and outside the direction of the previous administration.”

Manchin says he has more than 40 Democrats who support reform

Senator Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) is “very optimistic” that its licensing reform legislation will pass this week as part of an interim funding bill to prevent the government shutdown, the senator said in a statement. interview Sunday evening with our colleagues. Leigh Ann Caldwell and Theodoric Meyer from Beginning 202.

When asked if he had the support of at least 40 Democrats, Manchin replied, “Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah. i hope 48 [Democratic votes] but 45 would be a very good number.

The licensing bill, which would speed up the approval process for new energy projects, has met with strong bipartisan opposition in recent weeks, with Republicans hesitant to back Manchin in part because of his possible vote for the Inflation Reduction Act.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) scheduled a procedural vote on the legislative vehicle for the government funding bill on Tuesday evening. The measure will need 60 votes to move forward, which means it will need 10 or more Republican votes, depending on how many Democrats vote against the proposal.

Manchin said he spent much of the weekend trying to rally GOP support. One of the senators he tried to reach was Senator John Barrasso (Wyo.), his Republican counterpart on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resourceswho said he still doesn’t know how he will vote, but doesn’t quite agree with the authorization bill.

“I have reservations about the Manchin proposal because it’s really good for West Virginia and it’s actually bad for Wyoming,” Barrasso said in an interview Sunday.

EPA unveils office to put environmental justice at heart of agency

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Saturday the creation of a Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rightsone of the Biden administration’s most visible efforts to date to ensure that the well-being of disadvantaged communities is a critical part of federal decision-making, Brady Dennis reports for the Washington Post.

“It will enhance our ability to infuse equity, civil rights, and environmental justice into every action we take,” the EPA Administrator said. Michael Regan said during a Saturday address in Warren County, North Carolina, the site of the 1982 protests that sparked the national movement for environmental justice.

The new office, which will have hundreds of staff and a Senate-confirmed director, will combine three existing offices at the EPA, ultimately increasing its budget to $100 million and raising the question on the agency’s organizational chart.

The past recently Inflation Reduction Act authorizes billions in grants targeting environmental justice, including funds to clean up ports and rail yards and increase air quality monitoring near schools and vulnerable populations – all of which will be overseen by the new EPA office.

Ian turns into a hurricane as it heads towards Florida

The National Hurricane Center turned Ian into a hurricane early Monday as the storm intensifies and heads for the Florida coast, where it could make landfall later this week, The Post’s Dan Diamond reports.

But first, Ian is set to slam western Cuba Monday night, bringing “significant wind and storm surge impacts,” according to the center’s latest advisory.

Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) placed the entire state under a state of emergency and warned that residents of the hardest hit areas should prepare for fuel cuts, power outages and even evacuation orders.

Ian is the sixth named storm to form in September after no storm was named in August. Although scientists have not found a link between the number of major storms and human-induced climate change, warming waters have been shown to make the storms that form wetter, stronger and more prone to rapid escalation.

In addition to the drama over Manchin’s license reform legislation, here’s what we have on tap this week:

Wednesday: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold previously deferred votes on several candidates, including Joseph Goffman lead the Environmental Protection Agencyit is Air and Radiation Office and six candidates for the positions of members of the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Immediately thereafter, the committee will hold a hearing on the reauthorization of the Environmental Protection AgencyBrownfields program.

Thursday: The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on the benefits of climate investments in the Inflation Reduction Act.

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will also hold a hearing on the bipartisan legislation of Meaning Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) and James E. Risch (R-Idaho) to clean up abandoned hard rock mines.
  • The House Committee on Natural Resources will pass legislation to reauthorize US fishing laws, which have not been updated in 15 years and do not mention climate change. The measure is co-sponsored by Representative Jared Huffman (D-California) and newly elected Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska).

Friday: The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a watchdog hearing on Puerto Rico’s beleaguered power grid. The hearing comes after Hurricane Fiona cut off the electricity all over the island.

An oldie but a goodie from Michael Scott: 😂

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