Midday open thread: Rising seas threaten Amtrak; coal ash taints water; Green New Deal gains backers
Today’s comic by Ruben Bolling is Paul Ryan’s scientific fiscal experiment:
By the middle of this century, climate change is likely to punch a hole through the busiest stretch of rail in North America. Parts of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route, which carries 12 million people each year between Boston and Washington, face “continual inundation.” Flooding, rising seas, and storm surge threaten to erode the track bed and knock out the signals that direct train traffic. The poles that provide electricity for trains are at risk of collapse, even as power substations succumb to floodwaters. “If one of the segments of track shuts down, it will shut down this segment of the NEC,” warned members of Amtrak’s planning staff. “There is not an alternate route that can be used as a detour.”
• Trump seeks to put the squeeze on food stamp recipients with new work rules: The food stamp program, now called SNAP, was just reauthorized by Congress as part of the farm bill. It currently serves some 40 million Americans. Right now, able-bodied adults aged 18-49 and without children must work 20 hours a week to receive SNAP benefits. The House tried to boost the age to 59, require parents of children over 6 to work over get job training, and limit the circumstances in which families receiving benefits from other poverty programs are automatically eligible for SNAP. None of that made it into the final food stamps bill. Work-eligible adults without dependents can only receive three months worth of food stamps in a three-year period if they don’t meet the work requirement. But states who unemployment rate is 20 percent above the national average can issue waivers. And they can extend benefits for 15 percent of their work-eligible adult population without waivers. The Trump regime’s proposed rule would eliminate states’ ability to issue waivers unless a city or county has an unemployment rate of 7 percent or more. That would be 90 percent more than the current unemployment level of 3.7 percent. Which would remove around 775,000 people from the SNAP rolls. This summer, a Brookings Institution study concluded that more stringent work requirements “are likely to hurt vulnerable workers whose employment is sporadic.”
• Sixty-seven coal-fired plants in 22 states report toxic coal ash contamination: That pollution in the groundwater around coal ash impoundments exceeds federal health standards, according to data collected by several environmental groups. Consequently, on Wednesday they filed a petition for review against the Environmental Protection Agency’s rollbacks of Obama-era coal combustion residuals requirements. The petition was filed by Earthjustice, The Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club, on behalf of Clean Water Action, Hoosier Environmental Council, Prairie Rivers Network, HEAL Utah and Waterkeeper Alliance.
A little bit of math on #GoFundTheWall. They’ve raised $4 million in 3 days. WOW! Now, by Fox News’ own estimate, the wall would cost $25 billion. If they raise $1.3 million a day, EVERY DAY, it would take them 51 years, 4 months, and 19 days.So, keep donating you dummies.
— Steve Hofstetter (On tour now!) (@SteveHofstetter) December 20, 2018
• “Green New Deal” committee endorsed by 40 in Congress and more than 300 local officials: The list of members and soon-to-be members of Congress in support of the Green New Deal that is being pushed by Rep.-Elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez keeps growing almost daily. And now 44 mayors, 63 county and state legislators, and 116 city council members are among the 311 officials from 40 states who have signed an open letter calling for a phaseout of fossil fuels and adopting the Green New Deal concept. One of the signers is L.W. Allstadt, a trustee of the Upstate New York village of Cooperstown. He’s a former executive vice president of Mobil Oil, which merged with Exxon in 1998 to form the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.
• Meanwhile, Steny Hoyer riled progressives by saying Green New Deal Select Committee won’t have subpoena powers like other House committees: The incoming House Majority Leader sparked pushback Wednesday when he gave reporters this news. Rep.-Elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez responded with a tweet saying the select committee isn’t “our ultimate end goal,” and a “weak committee misses the point and endangers people.” Varshini Prakash, co-founder and lead spokeswoman for the Sunrise Movement that backs a Green New Deal, called the move to deny the committee subpoena power “an insult to the thousands of young people across the country who have been calling on the Democratic Party leadership to have the courage to stand up to fossil fuel billionaires and make sure our generation has a livable future.”
On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: Trump tweets the U.S. out of Syria, drops sanctions, slashes SNAP, and is self-centered lout. In other news, how should you feel about this criminal justice reform bill? Wilbur Ross lies some more. AG nominee Barr’s Mueller memo makes waves.