Dems plan to inject climate into reauthorization debate

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, June 23, 2017

Naval Station Norfolk at Hampton Roads, Va. Photo credit: NASA.

Naval Station Norfolk at Hampton Roads, Va., is among the coastal facilities affected by storms and sea-level rise. NASA

Democrats are gearing up for a fight on climate change when the House Armed Services Committee marks up its defense authorization bill next week.

Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, a senior Democrat on the committee, is planning to offer an amendment during Wednesday’s markup on the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

It would support the views taken by Secretary of Defense James Mattis on the threat climate change poses to national security, according to Democratic staffers.

Democrats will note the contrast between Mattis’ perspective and the policy approach taken by the rest of the Trump administration, an aide said.

Mattis said as recently as last week — pressed by Langevin and Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) during a budget hearing — that climate change is a threat to national security and international stability, and that it is something the Pentagon must continue to plan for (E&E Daily, June 16).

“It is no secret that climate change poses a threat to our national security,” Langevin said in a statement, which mentioned his questions for the secretary.

“So it should come as no surprise that there will be efforts to address this critical challenge as we prepare the [fiscal 2018] National Defense Authorization Act. Climate change is real, and we must act now to prepare for it. To do otherwise is to imperil our nation.”

Mattis’ views largely reflect the attitude the military has adopted toward the changing environment for years. While DOD typically stays out of political fights over the cause of global warming, it has been forced to plan for changes like melting ice in the Arctic, rising sea levels and increased instability in regions including the Middle East.

But Republicans on the committee, along with other conservatives, have in the past objected to the idea of tackling the issue of climate, saying that it should not be a primary concern for the military. The amendment would only be able to pass with bipartisan support.

One provision has already found its way into the NDAA. The readiness section includes a directive on sea-level rise, which notes that multiple installations have experienced recurrent flooding and encroachment. It orders a report to Congress on the problem by next March.

The impact of sea-level rise has been especially notable in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, which is home to the world’s largest naval base (Climatewire, Oct. 27, 2016).

“These events have the potential to adversely impact military operations, training, and readiness,” the committee wrote.

The House NDAA also includes a provision to authorize DOD energy conservation projects, as well as a directive related to water contamination at military installations. The language calls on the agency to brief Congress on the ongoing cleanup process by September.

The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness is set to mark up its section of the NDAA today. The full panel will do so next Wednesday.

On the Senate side, subcommittees will mark up their sections also next week. The full Senate Armed Services panel will do so in three days of closed session starting Wednesday.