Grijalva, Democrats Will Press for Answers on How Administration Can Push Infrastructure While Ignoring Climate Change

Washington, D.C. – Amid mounting reports from Bloomberg and other outlets that the Trump administration will soon release an executive order reversing a range of Obama-era climate change policies, and in light of the recently released administration budget proposal that eliminates nearly all federal funding for climate research and impact mitigation, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today questioned how this morning’s imminent infrastructure hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee can generate useful information while the White House and Congressional Republicans continue to willfully deny or ignore climate change’s risks to our roads, bridges, dams and canals. At today’s hearing, Grijalva will also press mining conglomerate Rio Tinto for more information about its Resolution Copper mining project in central Arizona, which has generated years of resistance and ongoing on-site protests by Native American communities concerned about damage to sacred land.

During the hearing – ostensibly organized to learn more about how our nation’s mining sector fits into Trump’s unfulfilled infrastructure promises – the Republican majority is unlikely to acknowledge the need for better climate data and realistic forward planning in any infrastructure plan. Grijalva and other Democrats on the Committee will press for clarity on how national infrastructure planning can go forward given Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s recent declaration that “We’re not spending money on [climate change] anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.” As an alternative approach, Democrats will emphasize the need for continued climate monitoring and for close coordination between climate scientists, civil engineers and infrastructure planners.

Trump is expected to sign an order in the coming days eliminating climate change considerations from the federal decision-making process, among other impacts, despite the fact that sea level rise has already imperiled populated areas in Alaska and along the Gulf Coast. The New York Times published a special report in November 2016 titled “Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate” that revealed widespread concerns about building or buying property along our nation’s coastlines.

Grijalva said this morning that we should not build new roads, bridges or other infrastructure without knowing whether climate change puts them at risk.

“Pretending our economy is a board game, where we can put a bridge here and a railroad there just because it looks like fun, is a recipe for an economic catastrophe,” Grijalva said. “The smartest thing this president could do now is offer a real infrastructure plan that accounts for climate change and builds a resilient, sustainable economy for the long haul. Unfortunately the Republican Party has been denying climate change for so long now that it can’t even recognize when it threatens its own interests, let alone our national interest.”

At the hearing, Grijalva will also press Nigel Steward, managing director for copper and diamonds operations at Rio Tinto, on a host of issues ranging from his parent company’s uniquely appalling human rights record around the globe to its history of ignoring labor and environmental standards. To take just one example, Rio Tinto has refused to acknowledge responsibility for many of the 39 worker deaths at its Grasberg complex in Papua New Guinea, arguing that a Grasberg co-owner called Freeport McMoRan is responsible for operations there despite Rio Tinto listing the site as one of its “core working assets” in its 2014 annual corporate report. Rio Tinto’s decision to abandon and ignore cleanup responsibilities at a mine in Bougainville – where for years it paid local government military units for private security and helped to fund a decade-long war that cost approximately 20,000 lives – was criticized as “unprincipled, shameful and evil” by Bougainville observers in the Sydney Morning Herald as recently as August 2016.

“A company with Rio Tinto’s record on human rights and environmental ruin has no standing to shape policy in our country,” Grijalva said today. “Any idea that a foreign-based company like Rio Tinto can tell us anything useful about American infrastructure investments insults the intelligence of this Committee and the American public.”

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