Top Dem: Climate change committee ‘not necessary’

Top Dem: Climate change committee ‘not necessary’
© Greg Nash

The Democrat expected to become the new chairman of the House committee that oversees environmental policy is bucking calls for a separate, special panel to investigate climate change.

“I think it’s not necessary,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who is currently ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said Tuesday of establishing a separate climate change panel.

Pallone's position is in contrast to that of leading Democrats, including Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUSMCA is nice but no model Anti-impeachment Democrat poised to switch parties Grassley urges White House to help farmers in year-end tax talks MORE (Calif.), who is working to become Speaker when the party takes over as the majority in January.

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Pelosi has called for weeks to revive some version of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that operated from 2007 to 2011 when Democrats had the House majority.

The Democratic leader amplified her support for the panel Tuesday after dozens of protesters, including Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), occupied her office to push for aggressive climate policies.

But Pallone said he thinks such a panel would be duplicative at best.

“We have very strong champions for addressing climate change — not only on my committee, but the other committees of jurisdiction — that are going to move very aggressively on the issue of climate change,” he told reporters Wednesday after a Democratic caucus meeting. “So I don’t think it’s necessary to have a special committee.”

Pallone said Democrats haven’t had a chance to demonstrate that they can handle climate issues in the normal committee structure because Republicans controlled the agenda for the last eight years.

“We have been fighting the Republicans for the last eight years, where they wouldn’t even let us bring up the issue of climate change,” he said.

Pallone gave similar comments to Politico earlier.

Energy and Commerce’s responsibilities include overseeing the Environmental Protection Agency. That agency took numerous steps and wrote various regulations under the Obama administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change, though the Trump administration has worked to roll nearly all of those policies back.

In addition to potential duplication with Energy and Commerce, a special climate committee likely would not have the authority to write or vote on legislation, and would only hold hearings, write reports and investigate topics.

In the special panel’s previous iteration, however, it contributed to writing the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which would have created a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases. The act passed the House but the Senate never passed its matching legislation.

Democrats have yet to designate leaders and committee chairmen for the upcoming session of Congress, which starts Jan. 3.