White House plots climate strategy with Senate, House Democrats

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Regulation: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court battle | Watchdog to investigate EPA chief's meeting with industry group | Ex-Volkswagen exec gets 7 years for emissions cheating Overnight Energy: Watchdog probes Pruitt speech to mining group | EPA chief promises to let climate scientists present their work | Volkswagen manager gets 7 years for emissions cheating EPA head pledges to protect climate scientists MORE (D-R.I.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) met with White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis McDonoughObama: Bannon, Breitbart shifted media narrative in 'powerful direction' DNC chairman to teach at Brown University Trump mocked Obama for three chiefs of staff in three years MORE last week to coordinate climate strategy, the Rhode Island Democrat told reporters Tuesday.

Whitehouse said he and Waxman requested the sit down with McDonough. The pair of lawmakers lead a bicameral effort aimed at pushing executive action on climate change.

“We’re continuing to keep an open dialogue. I think it’s very important for the executive branch and the legislative branch to be working together on this and not have one set of White House strategies and one set of Democratic Senate and House strategies,” Whitehouse said after an energy and environment event he hosted in the Capitol.

McDonough took over as White House chief of staff in January. 

It’s the second such meeting between Whitehouse, Waxman — the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee — and administration officials regarding climate change. The first came in March.

McDonough is viewed as an advocate of addressing climate change, potentially giving Waxman and Whitehouse an open line of communication to relay their policy concerns to the Obama administration.

The liberal lawmakers have pressed President Obama to take more aggressive action on climate, noting partisan gridlock will likely close off the legislative route.

They want Obama to forge ahead with emissions standards for existing coal-fired power plants, expand energy efficiency efforts and sign more international climate accords, among other items.

“This issue is going to define this presidency,” Whitehouse said. “I think what he said and where he is will force him — will impel him — to take action before long.”

Some liberal groups, though, have grown wary of Obama’s commitment to climate change.

Despite the president’s vow to tackle emissions in his inauguration and State of the Union speeches, some green and left-leaning groups say they have seen little to back up those statements.

They point to the Obama administration’s delay on enacting emissions rules for existing power plants and hints that it will approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Keystone is currently under federal review. Its builder, TransCanada Corp., requires a cross-border permit from the administration to complete its northern leg.

A draft environmental review released in March by the State Department said the Canada-to-Texas pipeline would not significantly ramp up oil sands production or greenhouse gas emissions.

State said demand would force the carbon-intensive fossil fuels out of the ground with or without Keystone, saying other pipelines or rail could transport oil sands.

Keystone's supporters have pointed to the draft review as confirmation that building the pipeline is in the national interest and that claims of a major climate setback are overblown.

The pipeline’s opponents have rejected Foggy Bottom's finding. They have appealed to Obama and Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryLobbying world Kerry: Trump not pursuing 'smart' or 'clever' plan on North Korea Tillerson will not send high-ranking delegation to India with Ivanka Trump: report MORE to nix the project, saying it would harm efforts to rein in carbon emissions.