House Dems demand records on Trump’s climate rollbacks

Leading House Democrats, weeks away from taking over the majority in the lower chamber, are demanding records and information from the Trump administration’s rollbacks of numerous climate change policies at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (D-N.J.), slated to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler seeking answers as to why the agency is weakening or eliminating rules meant to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, cars, and oil and natural gas drillers.

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The letter is likely an opening salvo to more extensive investigations that the Democrats are planning after Jan. 3, when the new Congress is sworn in and they have the majority of the seats.

The majority will give Pallone the committee's gavel, as well as the ability to set the agenda, compel witnesses to testify and demand documents with subpoenas.

For now, however, Pallone and the top Democrats on two subcommittees — Reps. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoThe Hill's Morning Report - In Nevada, bets on Sanders, eyes on Bloomberg Overnight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms MORE (N.Y.) and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking House passes Protecting America's Wilderness Act Vaping execs tell lawmakers that e-cigarettes are not meant for young people MORE (Colo.) — are just asking questions.

Despite dire climate warnings like a recent United Nations report, “EPA has engaged in the systematic dismantling of critical climate initiatives and public health protections,” they wrote.

“Furthermore, EPA continues to champion policies that would result in massive increases in greenhouse gas emissions with no regard for the associated climate or public health impacts,” the lawmakers continued.

“Combined, the administration’s rollbacks willfully turn a blind eye to the dangers of climate change, putting American communities at risk and diverting EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.”

The letter also provides a window into the EPA policies that the Democrats are likely to focus their attention on. It scrutinizes the proposals to repeal the Clean Power Plan and replace it with a far weaker alternative that environmentalists say could increase greenhouse gas emissions, to repeal future plans to increase car fuel efficiency standards, and to repeal methane emissions standards for oil and natural gas drillers.

Pallone and the likely chairmen of the Natural Resources and Science subcommittees announced last week plans to hold two days of hearings on climate change early next year.