House energy panel to dedicate first hearing to climate change

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold its first hearing under the chamber’s new Democratic majority on climate change.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who became the panel’s chairman Thursday when the new Democratic-majority House was sworn in, said climate will come before other major issues within Energy and Commerce’s broad jurisdiction, including health care and technology.

Pallone said he is dedicating the first hearing to climate is meant in part to highlight how Democrats believe Republicans ignored the issue during their eight years in the majority.


“Part of the reason why we want to deal with climate change first is because of the necessity, because of what’s happening, the acceleration of global warming,” he told reporters.

“But it’s also the fact that we haven’t been able to have any hearings on that issue, because the Republicans wouldn’t allow it.”

Pallone said GOP leaders “were all climate deniers,” and that the party consistently blocked Democratic attempts to prioritize climate change in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The panel said in a statement that the hearing will focus on “assessing the environmental and economic impacts of climate change.”

Pallone said it’s unclear when the hearing will take place, but it will likely be about a week after the committee’s organizational meeting.

How to address the issue of climate change in the majority has divided the House Democratic caucus. Pallone has been an outspoken critic of creating a special select committee on climate change. Energy and Commerce is the main committee with jurisdiction over environment and climate policy, and a new select committee may step on that jurisdiction.

“I think it’s not necessary,” he said in November. 

House leaders, including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLawmakers, social media users praise photo of Pelosi confronting Trump Trump turns Pelosi's 'meltdown' criticism around: 'She is a very sick person' Trump threat lacks teeth to block impeachment witnesses MORE (D-Calif.), proposed setting up a special climate panel but with features that address many of the concerns from Pallone and other chairmen of standing committees. The would include giving it no power to pass legislation or issue subpoenas.

By Thursday, Pallone said he accepted the plans for the panel as outlined in the House rules that Democrats are due to vote on soon. It’s been dubbed the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorClimate activist Greta Thunberg implores lawmakers to 'listen to the best available science' House approves two bills to block Trump drilling Pelosi, Schumer invite US women's soccer team to Capitol MORE (D-Fla.) is in line to be its chairwoman.

“We’ll work with the climate committee,” he said. “They’re going to issue reports and findings and make recommendations to us. And so I’m going to work with them.”

Pallone faced sharp criticisms from progressives for his stance on the select committee. But he denied that making climate the focus of his first hearing is meant to push back on the select committee.

“Every time I’ve ever talked to anybody who’s progressive or a Democrat, they’ve said that they understand that we take it very seriously,” he said.

Pallone announced the hearing plans at a Thursday event in which former Rep. Henry WaxmanHenry Arnold WaxmanLessons from Congress' last big battle on climate Current, former lawmakers celebrate release of new book on Jack Brooks, 'The Meanest Man in Congress' Finally, a presidential EMP order that may save American lives MORE (D-Calif.), who chaired Energy and Commerce before Republicans took the House majority in 2011, ceremoniously gave him a gavel.

The new chairman said the next two hearings in his committee after the climate one will be on the impacts of a recent Texas federal court ruling that said the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, is unconstitutional, and on the Trump administration’s family separation policy for undocumented child immigrants.