But less than three weeks ago, this member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission was thrust into the spotlight. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Trumka said his agency was considering regulations — or even a ban — on new gas stoves because of concerns about their harmful indoor air pollution.
Ban gas stoves? Totalitarian, declared Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands,” tweeted Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.).
Trumka said he never imagined his offhand comments would ignite such a furor, which partly explains why he is now clearly uncomfortable talking about himself. At the beginning of an hour-long interview, he fidgeted and looked at the floor. He was reluctant to become part of the story, he said.
“We work on incredibly important safety issues here,” Trumka said, referring to the commission’s work protecting the public from dangerous household products. “And I always want the story to be about that, not about me.”
Of course, many stories have been written about Trumka’s father, the late Richard Trumka Sr., who presided over the nation’s largest federation of unions for more than a decade before his death in 2021. As president of the AFL-CIO, he was known for his aggressive style of leadership, thick mustache and confrontational manner.
His son has the same thick mustache, but that’s where many of the similarities end. The younger Trumka is more soft-spoken and has granted few interviews since joining the CPSC in October 2021.
You can read Maxine’s full profile of Trumka here. But if you’re in a hurry, here’s what to know about the man who sparked the gas-stove wars:
In agreeing to talk to The Washington Post, Trumka said he wanted to discuss topics other than gas stoves. Still, he acknowledged that there is a reason he cooks with an electric range at home: He wants to protect the lungs and health of his 3-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.
“I won’t pretend that I do all the cooking in my house,” Trumka said. “But I pitch in and I help. And so do my kids. And so if I didn’t have an electric stove, I might be thinking about a switch right now.”
If there are recurrent themes in Trumka’s career, protecting young people would be a big one. He’s attentive to the risks his children face in everyday life.
To that end, the commission recently passed a rule to prevent cords in window coverings from accidentally strangling kids. Another recent rule seeks to keep kids from swallowing magnets and suffering serious internal injuries.
Before joining the commission, Trumka was a staffer on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where he probed the presence of lead and other toxic heavy metals in baby food. Exposure to lead, even at low levels, can harm children’s health and development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Coming from coal
While gas-stove supporters have painted Trumka as an enemy of fossil fuels, he comes from a family with deep roots in the coal industry.
Both of Trumka’s grandfathers were miners from southwestern Pennsylvania, and both men died of black lung disease, which is caused by inhaling toxic coal and silica dust in underground mines. No one had warned them about the dangers of black lung, much less taught them how to protect themselves.
“They could have been bitter and complained about the years of their life that they lost or the pain that they went through,” Trumka said. “But they weren’t. They were hopeful, and they cared about the power of information. They knew that if they talked about this [disease], they could help the next generation of miners be safer and healthier.”
Some conservatives have voiced frustration with Trumka’s comments about gas stoves because of concerns about government overreach.
“Liberals often accuse conservatives of wanting the government in the bedroom, while they themselves are hard at work padding every other room in the house with layers of regulatory Bubble Wrap,” analysts with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, wrote in a recent blog post.
When asked about some people’s anger over talk of regulating gas stoves, Trumka said: “When you learn upsetting new information about something you’ve been around for a long time — maybe your whole life — you can never predict people’s reactions. And there is going to be justifiable anger, and sometimes it’s misdirected.”
On the Hill
Exclusive: 7 GOP lawmakers have hired former oil lobbyists, analysis finds
Seven Republican lawmakers have hired former lobbyists for the oil and gas industry as legislative staffers, according to an analysis from Accountable.us, a nonpartisan research group, shared with The Climate 202.
Five of the seven sit on the House Natural Resources Committee, a key environmental panel. The report comes as the House is set to vote this week on legislation that would tie releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to more oil and gas leasing on federal lands.
Here are some of the staffers the report highlighted:
- Nancy Peele, the new chief of staff for Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman (Ark.), lobbied on behalf of the oil company Taylor Energy in 2015 and represented the gas company Hercules Offshore from 2010 to 2014, among other clients.
- Shawn Rusterholz, a new legislative assistant for Rep. Pete Stauber (Minn.), spent the past seven years working in government affairs for Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute.
- Anthony Foti, communications director for Rep. Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), previously lobbied on behalf of Fluor, an oil and gas engineering firm.
- Grace Bellone, a legislative assistant for Rep. John Curtis (Utah), previously represented Tallgrass Energy Partners, an oil and gas pipeline company.
- Jennifer Megan Bel Miller, the chief of staff for House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.), lobbied on behalf of the National Ocean Industries Association, which advocates for both offshore drilling and offshore wind energy.
There is no evidence that the staffers’ former employers have directly influenced the lawmakers’ work. And as part of the revolving door in Washington, Democratic staffers often come to the Hill from industries their bosses have championed.
None of the offices mentioned in the report responded to requests for comment.
Coons floats compromise to avert green trade war with Europe
Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) on Wednesday suggested that the United States and the European Union could avert a green trade war by making mutual concessions, as European leaders voice frustration with what they see as protectionist policies in the Inflation Reduction Act.
In particular, Coons said the United States could allow some European companies to take advantage of the climate law’s subsidies, while the European Union could waive fees on some American products under its carbon border adjustment mechanism, or CBAM.
“We would welcome them into the circle of countries whose companies can participate in the IRA subsidies after a negotiation that results in their also accommodating their CBAM to include some of our clean heavy industrial products,” he said in an interview with our colleague Olivier Knox.
These negotiations could take place as part of the “climate club” backed by the Group of Seven nations, Coons said, adding that he discussed the idea with European policymakers at last week’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Thanks to Olivier for his help with this item. You can subscribe to his politics newsletter, The Daily 202, here.
House Energy and Commerce Committee announces subcommittee leadership
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) on Wednesday unveiled the leaders of the panel’s subcommittees for the 118th Congress. They include:
- Energy, Climate and Grid Security Subcommittee Chair Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)
- Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Minerals Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson (R-Ohio.)
- Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.)
Duncan has previously voiced skepticism of renewable energy and advocated for an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy that includes fossil fuels.
In February 2021, when Texas faced rolling blackouts amid a deadly winter storm, the lawmaker tweeted that “A true ‘Climate Czar’ would be in Texas right now looking at the shortcomings of intermittent wind and solar power generation during a climatic event.” While some wind turbines did freeze, coal and natural-gas plants also failed during the storm.
Biden bans logging roads in much of America’s largest national forest
The Biden administration on Wednesday reinstated legal protections for more than half of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, a move that is meant to safeguard fish and other wildlife from new roads and logging, The Washington Post’s Timothy Puko reports.
The Tongass, a major carbon sink and one of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests, has been the focus of a long fight between environmentalists and Alaska timber interests. In 2020, state leaders persuaded the Trump administration to allow logging companies to build roads and remove timber throughout more than 9.3 million acres of forest, saying it would boost economic growth. The new decision from the Agriculture Department takes effect immediately.
“The Tongass National Forest is key to conserving biodiversity and addressing the climate crisis,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Restoring roadless protections listens to the voices of Tribal Nations and the people of Southeast Alaska while recognizing the importance of fishing and tourism to the region’s economy.”
In the atmosphere
“Nobody’s gonna know.”
“They’re gonna know.”
“How would they know?”
Know what? Many of us walk right past wildlife without even noticing. Look closely. Can you see something?
📷Great horned owl @GreatDunesNPS pic.twitter.com/mC96wD3kom
— National Park Service (@NatlParkService) January 25, 2023
Thanks for reading!