February 09, 2022

Cori Bush Presses For Answers Behind Fossil Fuel Pollution and Gun Violence, Asthma in St. Louis

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the urgent need for corporate polluters to take real, meaningful steps toward transitioning to a green economy. Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) focused her remarks on the reality of heat and pollution in St. Louis driven by fossil fuels, pointing to the higher rates of gun violence on hotter days, and higher rates of asthma across Missouri’s First District.  

The hearing’s purpose was to examine the adequacy of climate pledges made by fossil fuel companies to reduce carbon emissions and curb climate change. Specifically, today’s hearing was intended to draw attention to fossil fuel companies engaging in “greenwashing” by issuing climate pledges that sound impressive but are woefully inadequate to prevent a climate disaster. The Congresswoman highlighted decades of climate denial by the fossil fuel industry and the importance of Congressional oversight and intervention. 

The Congresswoman directed her questions to Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor of Atmospheric Science, The Pennsylvania State University, and Ms. Tracey Lewis, Policy Counsel, Public Citizen.

To watch the Congresswoman’s full exchange, click here.

A full transcript of her questioning and exchange with the witness is available below. 

Congresswoman Cori: St. Louis and I thank you Chairwoman Maloney and Chairman Khanna for convening this important hearing. When fossil fuel companies produce massive greenhouse gas emissions, St. Louis heats up. When St. Louis heats up, more bullets fly and more kidneys fail. Lives are lost, and in St. Louis, it is the lives of Black people that are disproportionately lost as a result of heating. Dr. Mann, St. Louis has 11 more 90 degree days per year today than when I was born, how will a community like ours continue to change in the next 10 years?

Dr. Mann: You know that’s right, we’re seeing a huge increase in the frequency of these extremely hot spells, temperatures above 90 degrees fahrenheit, 100 degrees fahrenheit, and if we continue on the course that we’re on right now. Now, if we continue with business as usual, burning up fossil fuels, by the middle of the century, most of summer will feel like the hottest day that you experienced in your life. So that’s the sort of future that we face if we fail to act now, and it will only get that much worse, as you allude to. The problem is worse, for example, in urban environments that tend to be heavy minority populations, where, you know, there are studies that show that they live in the most susceptible places, you know the hottest places, the places most susceptible to flooding.

Congresswoman Cori: Thank you. All the while, the fossil fuel industry spends huge sums on misleading advertising, pretending that they are part of the solution. 

We are here today talking about how the fossil fuel industry needs to dramatically reduce emissions, but they will not. They are admitting they are not. These intentionally misleading pledges are evidence enough that their decades of climate denial continue.

I am a Black Congresswoman with asthma - asthma made worse by being hit and sprayed with tear gas and pepper spray. My asthma isn’t a coincidence. A 2021 EPA analysis found that Black communities are 34% more likely to have increased childhood asthma diagnoses due to climate change. It is in communities like mine that fossil fuel companies’ emissions put our health at risk first.

Fossil fuel facilities are typically located in our communities - predominantly Black and brown communities, where they compound with toxic pollution and brownfields to exacerbate underlying health conditions. 

So Ms. Lewis, please describe how Big Oil’s pledges reveal they are planning to continue building factories and refineries in communities of color?

Ms. Lewis: Thank you so much Congresswoman Bush. It’s very, very clear that despite the pledges, the march toward increased infrastructure, fossil fuel infrastructure, is planned, particularly around carbon capture and carbon sequestration, underground sequestration. Those plants will never be built in the center of town, never be built in wealthy neighborhoods like on University in St. Louis. That won’t happen. They’re going to be  in the underserved communities, where Black, Brown people live in urban areas, where indigenous people live, and impact their health. So we have to deal with this. And the way that we can stop it is by stopping it, stopping funding them with taxpayer dollars for subsidies for multi-billion dollar companies. 

Congresswoman Cori: Yes, yes, you got right to it Ms. Lewis, because I was going to ask you, these companies aren’t going to reduce emissions themselves, so what do you think Congress must do to intervene? Do you have anything else on that point?

Ms. Lewis: Oh yes, happy to add here. You know one, keep holding hearings like this, holding companies' feet to the fire. Also, I think that you have the capacity to speed up our transition toward a future of renewable energy, and that’s really key to protecting these communities that are directly impacted by the harms of the fossil fuel industry.

Congresswoman Cori: Yes, thank you. We know that Black folks are 40% more likely than other groups to live in areas where extreme temperatures driven by climate change will result in higher mortality rates. Structural inequity, environmental racism, and climate change have made our communities lethal environments.

Communities like mine are suffering from the climate crisis right now. We will not wait around for the fossil fuel industry to intervene to stop their own environmental violence and racism that has continued for decades.

Big Oil will continue to prioritize profits over Black lives, until we intervene ourselves, which, that’s what we’re doing. The investigation that this committee is undergoing right now, it is essential to the work to save lives. 

Thank you and I yield back. 



Congresswoman Cori Bush sits on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, serves as the Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip, and proudly represents St. Louis as a politivist in the halls of the United States Congress.