ICYMI: Congresswoman Bush Climate Crisis Impacts on Black Communities including St. Louis
WATCH: Congresswoman Bush proclaims “flooding in St. Louis driven by climate crisis”
Washington DC (September 16, 2022) – Today, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) joined the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Hearing titled “Fueling the Climate Crisis: Examining Big Oil’s Prices, Profits, and Pledges,” where the focus was to highlight the profiteering role fossil fuels companies play in driving the climate crisis.
In her remarks, the Congresswoman focused on how fossil fuel companies’ relentless fueling of the climate crisis has disproportionately impacted Black communities, like St. Louis. She pointed to the recent historic and devastating flooding in St. Louis this summer causing residents to lose their homes, cars and belongings.
The Congresswoman spoke to a panel of economists and experts knowledgeable of the business activities of major oil companies, including:
- Isabella M. Weber, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Raya Salter, Esq., Founder and Executive Director, Energy Justice Law and Policy Center, Member, New York State Climate Action Council
- J. Mijin Cha, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy, Occidental College, Fellow, Cornell University Worker Institute
In addition to Congresswoman Bush’s participation in today’s House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, during this first week of Congress being back, the Congresswoman introduced three pieces of legislation that address various aspects of the climate crisis, including ensuring worker’s safety during climate disasters and declaring access to utilities as a human right.
To watch the Congresswoman’s opening statement and full exchange with the witnesses, click HERE.
A full transcript of her opening statement and exchange with the witness is available below.
Rep. Bush: Thank you madam Chair, and thank you to Chairwoman Maloney for convening this important Hearing and continuing this critical series. And also thank you to both panels for your courageous and insightful testimony.
This summer, heatwaves, wildfires, and historic floods have devastated our communities. In St. Louis, we saw back to back floods in the same week that are supposed to only happen once every 1,000 years. It was the highest rainfall in one day since records began in 1873. In Kentucky, 39 people died and more than 600 helicopter rescues were carried out. Toxic sites were inundated and many of our neighbors lost their homes - many in our community are still recovering from the devastation.
The flooding in St. Louis and elsewhere was driven by the climate crisis, which we know is happening as a result of burning fossil fuels. Tragically, the climate crisis is making these events increasingly common and severe, so we know they will be even worse next year and the year after that.
The fossil fuel industry is devastating St. Louis and communities around the country by continuing to burn fossil fuels. Further, they are taking home extraordinary profits, causing us to pay more for gas, leaving us less prepared for extra costs associated with disasters.
At the gas pump, and through dangerous emissions, the fossil fuel industry is threatening us directly, especially our Black communities. In St. Louis, we have seen devastation. The flooding was worst in places that already suffer the most and we were already hit the hardest by the pandemic. The hardships keep piling onto the same people. People lost their cars and homes, entire apartment complexes were condemned, putting 100s of families on the street. Two months later, the consequences are still playing out right now.
Rep Bush: Ms. Salter, can you say more about the direct impacts of burning fossil fuels and overcharging gas on black communities specifically?
Ms. Salter: No, absolutely. One thing that I can mention is that, yes, we know the COVID pandemic has exacerbated the disproportionate impact of fossil fuel pollution, particularly on black people who've been more likely to die from the disease. Preliminary science indicates that longstanding inequalities in exposure to air pollution are an especially deadly risk factor for COVID-19. Studies also are showing that there is a relationship between the racist policies of the past that continue to this day like redlining, housing discrimination, and pollution that lead to the extreme heat, the asthma and the flooding that, yes, disproportionately impacts black people and other people of color. Black people, most significantly in this country.
Rep Bush: And, its inhumane. The fossil fuel industry is profiting off of the death and destruction in our communities, and they've known it for decades. Furthermore, they're making it unsafe for workers to get to work, creating hazardous workplaces and disproportionately putting low income people at risk in their neighborhoods are continuing to burn fossil fuels. Dr. Cha, can you tell us more about how the burning of fossil fuels is harming workers specifically?
Dr. Cha: Well, the fossil fuel industry in general is very dangerous work. We can think about coal mining, oil and gas drilling. It's all those toxics that are needed to release oil and gas from the ground are then directly inhaled by workers. Part of the reason why the fossil fuel industry has higher wages is because it is very dangerous work.
So, you know, even when we burn fossil fuels, it's not just carbon dioxide that's released, but there are other pollutants that are released that are dangerous to communities and to workers and to increase profits, fossil fuel companies often cut safety and safety measures so that they can increase their profits, but at the expense of workers.
Rep Bush: That, again, is inhumane? Thank you. And I yield.
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.