Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — House Dems seek answers on Jackson water funds 

FILE – A trickle of water comes out of the faucet of Mary Gaines a resident of the Golden Keys Senior Living apartments in her kitchen in Jackson, Miss., Sept. 1, 2022. The NAACP said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that Mississippi is discriminating against Jackson’s majority-Black population by diverting badly needed federal funds for drinking water infrastructure to white communities that needed it less. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Two House Democrats press Mississippi on the use of water infrastructure funds. Meanwhile, floods’ effect on food insecurity is… complicated, and hurricanes are poised to get wetter and faster. 

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here. 

Governor pressed on use of federal water funds 

House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) requested further information on Mississippi’s use of federal funds allocated for water infrastructure following the September water crisis in Jackson. 

How we got here: After torrential rain in late August, Jackson’s main water treatment facility failed, leaving residents reliant on bottled water and remaining under a boil-water advisory even after water pressure was restored. Full water service was only restored on Sept. 15. 

Mayor Chokwe Lumumba (D) has said upgrading city water infrastructure could cost billions, but the predominantly-Black capital has faced receding tax revenues for years. Over the decades, the city’s Democratic, predominantly Black leadership has frequently called on Republican, predominantly white state leadership to take action, while state leaders have blamed mishandling of funds at the municipal level. 

What are they asking? In a letter to Gov. Tate Reeves’s (R) office, Maloney and Thompson — whose district includes most of the city — called the crisis a “disaster waiting to happen” that would likely recur without further investment in city services.

They also noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has issued warnings about the city’s water infrastructure for decades and that extreme weather associated with climate change is likely to create similar crises in the future. 

  • Recent federal infrastructure legislation included billions for Mississippi to address water infrastructure in overburdened areas, the representatives noted. 
  • “However, criteria used by the Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure Act to allocate funding — such as median household income, possible population decline, and unemployment rate — may limit the funding Jackson receives compared to other locales, despite Jackson’s much greater need,” they wrote. 

Read more about the letter here. 

Floods could impact food security for millions: study

Flooding could affect food security for more than 5.6 million people across multiple African nations, a new study has found.

While these effects are usually negative, the researchers also identified certain positive effects — which the authors warned are not necessarily guaranteed. 

Record rainfall around the world is creating an urgent need to asses its influence on food needs, according to the study, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

“Floods can impact food security both immediately and in the months after the flood event,” lead author Connor Reed, a former New York University (NYU) Center for Data Science graduate student, said in a statement

How they determined it: To gain insight into such impacts, Reed and his colleagues examined flood conditions from 2009 to 2020 in more than a dozen countries across western, eastern and southern Africa, including Nigeria, Niger, Kenya, Mozambique and Malawi. 

They explored how key flood characteristics — such as location, duration and extent — shifted an independent food insecurity measure used by the United States Agency for International Development. 

That metric, called the Famine Early Warning System, measures the severity of food insecurity using a five-tiered scale: minimal food security, stressed, emergency, crisis and famine. 

  • The researchers found that during their study period, flood conditions affected the food security status for about 12 percent of people who were already experiencing food insecurity. 
  • Among the effects were devastating increases in food insecurity, but also some beneficial changes that ameliorated such insecure conditions. 

“Our results suggest that floods can have opposing effects on food security at different spatial scales, particularly at time periods after they occur,” study co-author Weston Anderson, a research scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. 

Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin. 

Faster, wetter hurricanes are on the way: officials

The U.S. Atlantic Coast is becoming a hotbed for rapidly intensifying hurricanes, as climate change fuels wetter and more severe storm systems, a new study has found. 

A warmer world will likely beget hurricanes that gain strength faster and exacerbate the risk of flooding along the Atlantic Coast, according to the study, published on Monday in Geophysical Research Letters. 

Hurricane Ian’s recent crash-landing in Florida was among the strongest storms to arrive and is a testament to how hurricanes can suddenly turn severe, the researchers observed. 

The rates at which hurricanes have strengthened near the Atlantic Coast have surged since 1979 — a trend that is poised to continue in a future marked by continued fossil fuel dependence, according to the study. 

  • “Our findings have profound implications for coastal residents, decision- and policy-makers,” Karthik Balaguru, a climate scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said in a statement
  • “And this isn’t specific only to the Atlantic,” Balaguru continued. “It’s happening in several prominent coastal regions across the world.” 

To draw their conclusions, Balaguru and his colleagues said they probed data describing the past four decades of hurricane activity and the conditions that fueled them. 

They found that a unique coastal phenomenon that causes a specific mix of environmental conditions has been driving such hurricane behavior. 

And while those conditions don’t appear in the Gulf of Mexico, they could form in other regions, such as the East Asian shoreline and the northwest Arabian Sea, according to the study. 

Supercharged by conditions like a warmer sea surface or increased atmospheric humidity, hurricanes like Ian can quickly intensify — crossing multiple categories in a short amount of time, the authors explained. 

Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Coal producers legally must restore damaged land, but some are dodging obligations (Bloomberg and NPR
  • Germany pushes to extend lifespan of three nuclear plants –letter (Reuters
  • Hurricanes Fiona and Ian gave solar power its time to shine (Politico
  • Can Focusing On Climate Change Help Win Elections? (FiveThirtyEight
  • 5 state-level races that could alter the energy transition (E&E News

🦜 Lighter click: Fair is fair

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

Tags Bennie Thompson Carolyn Maloney Tate Reeves

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