TAG SEARCH RESULTS FOR: ""

States divided on gun controls, even as mass shootings rise

By RACHEL LA CORTE and ANDREW DEMILLO

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was quick to react to this week’s carnage at a Texas elementary school, sending a tweet listing the gun control measures the Democratic-controlled state has taken. He finished with: “Your turn Congress.”

But gun control measures are likely going nowhere in Congress, and they also have become increasingly scarce in most states. Aside from several Democratic-controlled states, the majority have taken no action on gun control in recent years or have moved aggressively to expand gun rights.

That’s because they are either controlled politically by Republicans who oppose gun restrictions or are politically divided, leading to stalemate.

“Here I am in a position where I can do something, I can introduce legislation, and yet to know that it almost certainly is not going to go anywhere is a feeling of helplessness,” said state Sen. Greg Leding, a Democrat in the GOP-controlled Arkansas Legislature. He has pushed unsuccessfully for red flag laws that would allow authorities to remove firearms from those determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

After Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead, Democratic governors and lawmakers across the country issued impassioned pleas for Congress and their own legislatures to pass gun restrictions. Republicans have mostly called for more efforts to address mental health and to shore up protections at schools, such as adding security guards.

Among them is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has repeatedly talked about mental health struggles among young people and said tougher gun laws in places like New York and California are ineffective. In Tennessee, GOP Rep. Jeremy Faison tweeted that the state needs to have security officers “in all of our schools,” but stopped short of promising to introduce legislation during next year’s legislative session: “Evil exists and we must protect the innocent from it,” Faison said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has repeatedly clashed with the GOP-controlled Legislature over gun laws. He has called for passage of universal background checks and “red flag” laws, only to be ignored by Republicans. Earlier this year, the Democrat vetoed a Republican bill that would have allowed holders of concealed carry permits to have firearms in vehicles on school grounds and in churches located on the grounds of a private school.

“We cannot accept that gun violence just happens,” Evers said in a tweet. “We cannot accept that kids might go to school and never come home. We cannot accept the outright refusal of elected officials to act.”

On Wednesday, a day after the Texas shooting, legislative Democrats asked that the Wisconsin gun safety bills be taken up again, apparently to no avail. Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not return messages seeking their response.

In Pennsylvania, an effort by Democratic lawmakers Wednesday in the GOP-controlled Legislature to ban owning, selling or making high-capacity, semi-automatic firearms failed, as House Republicans displayed their firm opposition to gun restrictions. The GOP-majority Legislature has rejected appeals by Democratic governors over the past two decades to tighten gun control laws, including taking steps such as expanding background checks or limiting the number of handgun purchases one person can make in a month.

The situation is similar in Michigan, which has a Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature. On Wednesday, Democrats in the state Senate were thwarted in their efforts to advance a group of bills that would require gun owners to lock up their firearms and keep them away from minors.

“Every day we don’t take action, we are choosing guns over children,” said Democratic Sen. Rosemary Bayer, whose district includes a high school where a teen was charged in a shooting that killed four in November and whose parents are charged with involuntary manslaughter, accused of failing to lock up their gun. “Enough is enough. No more prayers, no more thoughts, no more inaction.”

Republican state Sen. Ken Horn responded by urging discussion about the other potential causes of gun violence.

“I would just point out that there are political solutions, but there are just as many spiritual solutions,” he said. “We don’t know what’s really happening in this world, what’s happening in this country, what’s happening to young men.”

Florida stands out as a Republican-controlled state that took action. The 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland that left 14 students and three staff members dead prompted lawmakers there to pass a law with a red flag provision that lets law enforcement officers petition a court to have guns confiscated from a person considered a threat.

Democrats now want that expanded to allow family members or roommates to make the same request of the courts, but there has been little appetite among Republicans to amend the law. Instead, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants lawmakers to allow people to carry handguns without a permit. The state currently requires a concealed weapons license.

While Republicans have supported red flag laws in some other states, most legislative action around gun control in recent years has been in states led by Democrats.

In Washington state, the governor earlier this year signed a package of bills related to firearm magazine limits, ghost guns and adding more locations where guns are prohibited, including ballot counting sites.

In California on Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom and top Democratic legislative leaders vowed to fast-track gun legislation, identifying about a dozen bills they plan to pass this year. Newsom highlighted a bill that would let private citizens enforce a ban on assault weapons by filing lawsuits – similar to a law in Texas that bans most abortions through civil enforcement.

Oregon’s Democratically controlled Legislature has passed bills that require background checks, prohibit guns on public school grounds, allow firearms to be taken from those who pose a risk and ensure safe storage of firearms. On Wednesday, a group of six Democrats said more must be done after the mass shooting in Texas and the racially motivated massacre in Buffalo, New York. They pledged additional action next year.

“We ran for office to solve big problems and make life better for our constituents — and that includes taking on the gun lobby and politicians that place profits and political power over children’s lives,” they said in a joint statement.

But there are limits even in some Democratic-controlled states, underscoring the challenge of gaining consensus to combat the rising frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.

Rhode Island has passed restrictions in recent years that include measures to ban firearms from school grounds and close the “straw purchasing” loophole that had allowed people to buy guns for someone else. But bills that would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault weapons have been bottled up in committee, in part because the overwhelmingly Democratic chamber includes many lawmakers who have opposed the measures, citing their support for the Second Amendment.

In Connecticut, gun violence legislation supported by both parties swiftly followed after 20 children and six staff members were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary Schoo l in 2012. But additional gun control measures stalled this year in the Democratic-led General Assembly, in large part because of a short legislative session and threats by Republicans to hold up legislation through a filibuster.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday he’s uncertain whether he will call a special session on the bills. They would put limits on bulk purchases of firearms and require the registration of so-called ghost guns, untraceable firearms that can be assembled at home.

“I think it’s become an incredibly partisan argument right now in our society,” Lamont said. “It wasn’t that way, you know, 30, 40 years ago. So that is disturbing, even in a state like Connecticut, where after Sandy Hook we had strong bipartisan support.”

___

DeMillo reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press statehouse reporters from around the U.S. contributed to this report.

Iowa part of settlement involving mileage claims for Ford pickups

BY 

RADIO IOWA – Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced Iowa is part of a multistate settlement with Ford Motor Company regarding gas mileage claims for pickups.

The settlement came after allegations that Ford falsely advertised the fuel economy of its 2013-2014 C-Max hybrids and the payload capacity of model year 2011-2014 Super Duty pickup trucks.

Iowa will receive more than $289,000 from the settlement which will all go to the Consumer Education Fund. The settlement agreement also prohibits Ford from making false or misleading advertising claims concerning the estimated fuel economy or payload capacity of a new motor vehicle.

It subjects Ford to penalties under the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act if a court determines that Ford violated the settlement agreement.

NC company pays civil penalty for 2020 excavations that led to two deaths

Iowa’s Attorney General has reached a settlement in an Iowa One Call lawsuit alleging that a contractor conducted an illegal excavation in Pella that led to two deaths.  Attorney General Tom Miller filed the lawsuit against MCS Communications of Concord, North Carolina.  According to Miller’s petition, MCS failed to exercise due care when conducting excavations to fiber optic cable in Pella in 2020.  On August 1 of that year, a MCS crew hit an electrical line with a jackhammer.  Two workers were electrocuted and a third was injured.  Other excavations damaged natural gas pipelines and a telecommunications line.  MCS is admitting to the violations and paying a $10,000 civil penalty.  In a separate matter, the Iowa Occupational and Health Safety Administration has issued several citations against MCS and the company is paying them a $12,250 fine.

Ottumwa chiropractor to cease practice while criminal case is resolved

An Ottumwa chiropractor accused of inappropriate contact with a young boy has agreed to stop practicing.  According to court documents, 62-year-old Bruce Lindgren allegedly told a 10-year-old boy to take off his shirt, then went on to massage the boy with lotion, hug him and kiss him on top of the head.  The report goes on to state that the boy was not a client. He was only at the clinic with an adult friend and their child. Iowa Board of Chiropractic says Lindgren has agreed to not practice his trade until the criminal charges are resolved. And the Board will not pursue disciplinary action against Lindgren until the charges are resolved.  Lindberg is charged with one count of assault, a simple misdemeanor.

 

Southern Iowa Speedway rained out 5/25

Oskaloosa, Iowa: Racing action slated for the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Wednesday, May 25th, fell victim to rain that moved into the area late on Tuesday and continued into Wednesday. Racing will continue on Hall of Fame Voting Night, Wednesday, June 1st. Fans will be given ballots and will have the opportunity to vote on the 2022 Southern Iowa Speedway Hall of Fame class. The 2022 Hall of Fame Inductees will be recognized on Wednesday, July 6th.

Racing action at the Southern Iowa Speedway will resume on Wednesday, June 1st with hot laps taking to the track at 7:15 pm, racing will follow. 

Gunman kills 19 children, 2 adults in Texas school rampage

By ACACIA CORONADO and JIM VERTUNO

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — An 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two adults as he went from classroom to classroom at a Texas elementary school, officials said, adding to a gruesome, yearslong series of mass killings at churches, schools and stores.

The attacker was killed by a Border Patrol agent who rushed into the school without waiting for backup, according to a law enforcement official.

Tuesday’s assault at Robb Elementary School in the heavily Latino town of Uvalde was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.

Hours after the attack, families were still awaiting word on their children. At the town civic center where some gathered, the silence was broken repeatedly by screams and wailing. “No! Please, no!” one man yelled as he embraced another man.

“My heart is broken today,” said Hal Harrell, the school district superintendent. “We’re a small community, and we’re going to need your prayers to get through this.”

Gov. Greg Abbott said one of the two adults killed was a teacher.

Adolfo Cruz, a 69-year-old air conditioning repairman, was still outside the school as the sun set, seeking word on his 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Eliajha Cruz Torres.

He drove to the scene after receiving a terrifying call from his daughter shortly following the first reports of the shooting. He said other relatives were at the hospital and the civic center.

Waiting, he said, was the heaviest moment of his life.

“I hope she is alive,” Cruz said.

The attack was the latest grim moment for a country scarred by a string of massacres, coming just 10 days after a deadly, racist rampage at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. And the prospects for any reform of the nation’s gun regulations seemed as dim, if not dimmer, than in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook deaths.

But President Joe Biden appeared ready for a fight, calling for new gun restrictions in an address to the nation hours after the attack.

“As a nation we have to ask, when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name are we going to do what has to be done?” Biden asked. “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”

It was not immediately clear how many people in all were wounded, but Uvalde Police Chief Pete Arredondo said there were “several injuries.”

Staff members in scrubs and devastated victims’ relatives could be seen weeping as they walked out of Uvalde Memorial Hospital, which said 13 children were taken there. Another hospital reported a 66-year-old woman was in critical condition.

Officials did not immediately reveal a motive, but they identified the assailant as Salvador Ramos, a resident of the community about 85 miles (135 kilometers) west of San Antonio. Law enforcement officials said he acted alone.

Uvalde, home to about 16,000 people, is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the border with Mexico. Robb Elementary, which has nearly 600 students in second, third and fourth grades, is in a mostly residential neighborhood of modest homes.

The attack came as the school was counting down to the last days of the school year with a series of themed days. Tuesday was to be “Footloose and Fancy,” with students wearing nice outfits.

Ramos had hinted on social media that an attack could be coming, according to state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who said he had been briefed by state police. He noted that the gunman “suggested the kids should watch out,” and that he had bought two “assault weapons” after turning 18.

Before heading to the school, Ramos shot his grandmother, Gutierrez said.

Other officials said that the grandmother survived and was being treated, though her condition was not known.

Investigators believe Ramos posted photos on Instagram of two guns he used in the shooting, and they were examining whether he made statements online in the hours before the assault, a law enforcement official said.

Law enforcement officers were serving multiple search warrants Tuesday night and gathering telephone and other records, the official said. Investigators were also attempting to contact Ramos’ relatives and were tracing the firearms.

The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The attack began about 11:30 a.m., when the gunman crashed his car outside the school and ran into the building, according to Travis Considine, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. A resident who heard the crash called 911, and two local police officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter.

Both officers were shot. It was not immediately clear where on the campus that confrontation occurred or how much time elapsed before more authorities arrived on the scene.

One Border Patrol agent who was working nearby when the shooting began rushed into the school without waiting for backup and shot and killed the gunman, who was behind a barricade, according to a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it.

The agent was wounded but able to walk out of the school, the law enforcement official said.

Meanwhile, teams of Border Patrol agents raced to the school, including 10 to 15 members of a SWAT-like tactical and counterterrorism unit, said Jason Owens, a top regional official with the Border Patrol.

He said some area agents have children at Robb Elementary.

“It hit home for everybody,” he said.

Condolences poured in from leaders around the world. Pope Francis pleaded that it was time say ”‘enough’ to the indiscriminate trade of weapons!” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine, which is at war with Russia after Moscow invaded, said that his nation also knows “the pain of losing innocent young lives.”

The tragedy in Uvalde was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, and it added to a grim tally in the state, which has been the site of some of the deadliest shootings in the U.S. over the past five years.

In 2018, a gunman fatally shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area. A year before that, a gunman at a Texas church killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday service in the small town of Sutherland Springs. In 2019, another gunman at a Walmart in El Paso killed 23 people in a racist attack targeting Hispanics.

The shooting came days before the National Rifle Association annual convention was set to begin in Houston. Abbott and both of Texas’ U.S. senators were among elected Republican officials who were the scheduled speakers at a Friday leadership forum sponsored by the NRA’s lobbying arm.

In the years since Sandy Hook, the gun control debate in Congress has waxed and waned. Efforts by lawmakers to change U.S. gun policies in any significant way have consistently faced roadblocks from Republicans and the influence of outside groups such as the NRA.

A year after Sandy Hook, Sens. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, negotiated a bipartisan proposal to expand the nation’s background check system. But the measure failed in a Senate vote, without enough support to clear a 60-vote filibuster hurdle.

Last year, the House passed two bills to expand background checks on firearms purchases. One bill would have closed a loophole for private and online sales. The other would have extended the background check review period. Both languished in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes to overcome objections from a filibuster.

___

This story was first published on May 24, 2022. It was corrected to reflect that state Sen. Roland Gutierrez said the gunman shot his grandmother before going to the school; he did not say the gunman killed his grandmother. It was also updated to correct the spelling of the name of the 10-year-old great-granddaughter.

___

Eugene Garcia and Dario Lopez-Mills in Uvalde, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Ben Fox, Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington, Paul J. Weber in Austin, Juan Lozano in Houston, Gene Johnson in Seattle and Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

___

More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings

Courts stymie abortion bans in Iowa, other GOP-led states

By THOMAS BEAUMONT and DAVID PITT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — With a staunch anti-abortion Republican governor and large GOP legislative majorities, Iowa would seem poised to ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

There’s just one catch: a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that established the right to abortion under the state constitution.

“I don’t know if the people of Iowa know that things aren’t going to change immediately if Roe. v. Wade is overturned,” said state Rep. Sandy Salmon, a Republican and farm manager from northeast Iowa who has made abortion restrictions a cornerstone of her five legislative terms.

Supreme courts in a handful of states, including others controlled by Republicans, have recognized the right to abortion. But in no state is the issue more immediate than Iowa, where Republicans are calling for a state high court with new, conservative justices to reverse a decision made just four years ago.

The Iowa court’s decision, due within weeks, is an example of the complexities that loom in states should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn its 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Specifically, it highlights the inevitable confrontation between new abortion bans being prepared in anticipation of Roe’s reversal and state constitutions.

“There are states where this is to some extent unknown and an issue that state courts will likely have to confront,” said Helene Krasnoff, vice president of public policy, litigation and law for abortion rights advocates Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “But this is an issue that’s present in Iowa in this very moment.”

The Iowa Supreme Court decision that’s under consideration struck down a 2017 law signed by then-Gov. Terry Branstad requiring a woman to wait 72 hours before receiving an abortion. The court ruled 5-2 that an abortion is a fundamental right protected by the state constitution’s guarantee of liberty.

“Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free,” wrote then-Chief Justice Mark Cady, who died in 2019. “Implicit in the concept of ordered liberty is the ability to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy.”

Since that decision, Branstad’s successor, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, has signed other restrictions, including outlawing abortion once cardiac activity is detected in the embryo and requiring a 24-hour waiting period. Both measures were struck down in state district court. Reynolds appealed the waiting-period decision to the Iowa Supreme Court last year.

In the years since Cady’s opinion, Reynolds has appointed four of the court’s seven members. The Republican-controlled Legislature also gave her more control over the process of selecting the panel that recommends potential nominees.

Drake University Law School professor Sally Frank said if the court were to overturn a right established only four years ago, it “would give an even more political look to a decision here than the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Yet abortion opponents argued that court rulings in a half-dozen states, including Iowa, are examples of laws inappropriately established by judges rather than elected officials.

“This case presents the opportunity for the Iowa Supreme Court to return the issue back to the people to decide through their elected representatives in the Legislature,” said Mallory Carroll, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.

Polls indicate support for keeping abortion legal. The Des Moines Register Iowa Poll found in September that 57% supported keeping abortion legal in most or all cases, compared with 38% who said it should be illegal in most or all cases. According to AP VoteCast, a 2020 survey of the electorate, 65% of Iowa voters said the U.S. Supreme Court should leave Roe v. Wade as it is, while a third said it should be overturned.

Reynolds has said she is “proud of the legislation she signed in 2018,” including the ban on abortions once cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant. While the measure included exceptions to protect the life of the mother and for pregnancies that are the result of incest or rape, Reynolds recently declined to endorse any exceptions.

“I’m not going to set any parameters,” she told reporters last week. “We have a ruling before the Iowa Supreme Court and we’re going to wait and see what they do, and that actually will affect what our next steps are moving forward.”

Supreme courts in Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Montana and Minnesota have ruled that their constitutions protect the right to abortion. Among them, Republicans hold legislative majorities and the governorships in Florida and Montana.

In Montana, a challenge to abortion restrictions is before the state supreme courts.

Majority Republicans in the Kansas Legislature are seeking to invalidate a 2019 state Supreme Court decision that declared access to abortion a “fundamental right” with a referendum on the August primary ballot to amend the state constitution.

Iowa Republicans also are pursuing a constitutional amendment that specifies the state constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion. The amendment could not stop the Legislature from enacting a statutory right to abortion, but would present an obstacle to any court weighing what the state would be required to enforce.

The measure needs a second approval in the Legislature and will likely come up next year, Salmon, the GOP state lawmaker, said. If approved it would go before voters, probably in 2024.

It’s the removal of the abortion guarantee in the 2018 court ruling that would clear the way for lawmakers to ban the procedure, Salmon’s ultimate goal.

“That means that abortion would not be a service offered in this state,” Salmon said.

___

Associated Press polling reporter Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this story.

___

This version corrects the last name of the spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony List to Carroll instead of Clark.

___

This story has been corrected show challenges to abortion restrictions are only before the Montana Supreme Court, and to show the correct the spelling of Krasnoff.

Miller asks for murder trial to be moved

One of the two teenagers accused of killing a Fairfield High Spanish teacher is asking that his trial be moved.  Attorneys for 16-year-old Willard Miller filed court papers Monday (5/23) asking for the change of venue.  Miller and 17-year-old Jeremy Goodale are both charged with first degree murder in the death last November of 66-year-old Nohema Graber.  Miller’s attorneys are also asking that some evidence in the case be suppressed.  A hearing on that has been scheduled for July 7.

No moratorium on land seizures in Iowa for carbon pipelines

BY 

RADIO IOWA – A temporary moratorium on the use of eminent domain to seize property along carbon pipeline routes passed the House in March, but it was never considered in the Iowa Senate.

The plan would have prevented pipeline developers from filing an application with the Iowa Utilities Board before February 1, 2023, in order to acquire land where property owners are refusing to grant access. Representative Bruce Hunter, a Democrat from Des Moines, suggested lawmakers played a type of shell game with Iowans who wanted some assurances their land won’t be seized against their wishes.

“We didn’t do anything for the farmers on this pipeline issue,” Hunter said. “Look what we’ve done: beat our chest and then con ’em.”

Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton said the mere threat of a moratorium got pipeline developers to assure him they won’t seek eminent domain authority until next March.

“We sent a message that we’re willing to act if property rights are attempted to be infringed on,” Kaufmann said.

And Kaufmann said state utility regulators have also told him their review of any eminent domain requests for carbon pipelines won’t start until after the 2023 legislature convenes.

At Davos, climate debate over role of oil in ‘going green’

By PETER PRENGAMAN

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — As government officials, corporate leaders and other elites at the World Economic Forum grapple with how to confront climate change and its devastating effects, a central question is emerging: to what extent can oil and gas companies be part of a transition to lower-carbon fuels?

In different times the question could have been academic, the kind of thing critics of the forum, which takes place in a tony ski village in the Swiss Alps, would say had no relevance to the real world. But today, the question is both practical and urgent, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced many countries that depended on Russian oil and gas to make swift changes to energy supplies.

The debate comes as examples of acutely felt impacts of climate change multiply, including recent heat waves in Southeast Asia to flooding in parts of South America. Meanwhile, the world’s top climate scientists have repeatedly warned that increased investment in fossil fuels are hurting chances to keep warming to limit warming to 1.5 C (2.7 F), and thus avoid even more devastating effects.

“We should not allow a false narrative to be created that what has happened in Ukraine somehow obviates the need to move forward and address the climate crisis,” said U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on Tuesday, speaking on a panel about the “net zero” goal.

Kerry added that it was possible to both meet the need of increased energy from fossil fuels in the short-term, particularly in Europe, and stay on course to reduce emissions over the coming years.

Meanwhile, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen made a different argument to urgently move toward renewable energies: she warned the 27-nation bloc should avoid becoming dependent on untrustworthy countries, like it did with fossil fuels from Russia, as it moves toward a greener economy.

She said the “economies of the future” will no longer rely on oil and coal but the green and digital transitions will rely on other materials like lithium, silicon metal or rare earth permanent magnets which are required for batteries, chips, electric vehicles or wind turbines.

“For many of them, we rely on a handful of producers in the world. So, we must avoid falling into the same trap as with oil and gas. We should not replace old dependencies with new ones.”

Von der Leyen added that the war in Ukraine has strengthened Europe’s determination to get rid of Russian fossil fuels rapidly. EU countries have approved an embargo on coal imports from Russia but member countries have yet to find a deal on sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas.

Attendees in Davos this week will discuss several other high-priority issues, like the Russia-Ukraine war, the threat of rising hunger worldwide, inequality and persistent health crises.

That includes Turkey’s pushback to Finland and Sweden applying for NATO membership. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said at Davos that a delegation from his country and Sweden will travel to the Turkish capital Wednesday for talks.

Both Haavisto and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in separate comments at the gathering that they believe they can overcome Turkey’s concerns about what it sees as Finland’s and Sweden’s support for groups it considers terrorists.

“We have to do what we always do in NATO, and that is to sit down and address concerns when allies express concerns,” Stoltenberg said.

But even in discussions of those issues, climate change was often ever present, as was the tension over what role oil and gas companies may play in a transition to green energy.

On Monday and again on Tuesday, the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, said the urgent energy needs of the moment should not turn into an excuse to make long-term investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, which has spiked in recent months.

Instead, Birol argued the emphasis needed to be a fast shift to renewable energies, an increase in nuclear where possible, stopping leaks of methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, and lowering personal consumption, like turning down the thermostat a few degrees.

“Some people may use the invasion of Ukraine as an excuse for fossil fuel investments. That will forever close the door to reach our climate targets” to reduce emissions that are heating up the planet, he said.

Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental Petroleum a major oil company, countered that oil and gas industries had a central role to play in the transition to renewable energy.

Instead of talk about moving away from fossil fuels, Hollub said the focus should be on making fossil fuels cleaner by reducing emissions. She said Occidental had invested heavily in wind and solar energy and planned to build the largest direct air capture facility in the world in the Permian Basin. Direct air capture is a process that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air and buries it deep in the ground.

“The U.S. can provide ample resources to the rest of the world. However, it’s becoming more and more difficult to do that because of the fact that we are getting a lot of headwinds,” she said on Monday. “One is the belief that we can end the use of oil and gas sooner rather than later.”

Joe Manchin, a U.S. senator from West Virginia who has opposed a major bill on climate change proposed by President Joe Biden, said Monday that fossil fuels were key to ensure energy security, and America had the resources to help ensure such security for the world.

“We can’t do it by abandoning the fossil fuel industry,” said Manchin, a Democrat, adding that no transition could take place until alternatives were fully in place.

Many energy experts argue that viable alternatives are already in place. For example, the cost of wind and solar have come down considerably in recent decades while efficiencies of both have dramatically increased. At the same time, other more nascent technologies have promise but need massive investment to develop.

___

Associated Press journalists Kelvin Chan and Jamey Keaten in Davos and Dana Beltaji in London and Samuel Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.

___

Peter Prengaman is The Associated Press’ global climate and environment news director and can be followed at: twitter.com/peterprengaman

____

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

NEWSLETTER

Stay updated, sign up for our newsletter.