Democratic leaders asserted their newfound control of the House on Wednesday by convening two key committee hearings on climate change that each emphasized the need for swift action on curbing greenhouse gas emissions after years of inaction under former Republican leadership.
The two simultaneous hearings held by the House Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce committees Wednesday were the first in nine and six years respectively to focus on fixing climate change.
They both came the day after President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE hailed oil and gas production as part of the United States's “energy revolution” at the State of the Union, throwing a spotlight on the current state of disconnect between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of climate policy.
“Today we turn the page on this committee from climate change denial to climate action,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) in his opening statement. “The Democratic majority is here to listen to people — to work for people, to hear from Americans across the country, from all walks of life whose experiences emphasize the need to address this crisis.”
Grijalva, whose committee oversees the Interior Department, said he hopes to focus on the impacts of oil and gas drilling on public lands, explore the implications of climate change on heat waves, forest fires and flooding and bring science back to agency decisionmaking.
“The Trump administration chooses to mock science and mislead the public on what our country will look like if we do nothing,” he said.
“Climate change is an urgent problem it demands urgent action and a sense of purpose from congress, this committee will offer both.”
Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoUsing shared principles to guide our global and national energy policy WHIP LIST: How House Democrats, Republicans say they'll vote on infrastructure bill Manchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, said his committee, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, will focus on finding climate solutions.
“With climate change, the cost of failure is existential. Failure to launch this next moonshot will result in deaths, devastation and irreversible damage to our communities, our economy and our environment,” he said in his opening statement.
“Time is running out but it is not gone.”
Tonko said he knew finding a solution to the pressing issue would involve bipartisan solutions. That would be especially true for any legislation passed through the House, as the Senate is still led by Republicans.
“We have proven we can find common ground and we can get things done. We want to find solutions that’ll work for all communities and all Americans and we will not be deterred.”
While the witnesses at each hearing, which included the governors of North Carolina and Massachusetts and a number of scientists and climate activists, agreed largely with the chairman’s sentiments, Republican colleagues on both sides of the aisle seemed less convinced.
Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusGOP ekes out win in return of Congressional Baseball Game Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Lobbying world MORE (R-Ill.), top Republican on the subcommittee, said he agreed with Tonko that the two political sides could often find compromise, but it wouldn’t be easy when it comes to climate change.
“Today’s hearing kicks off a topic that will be challenging but not impossible to work through in a bipartisan manner,” Shimkus said.
“While we agree these issues must be addressed we might disagree about what to do.”
Shimkus warned against bowing down to scientists and “amped up partisan rhetoric” that suggest the first actions that must be taken to fix climate change must also be the most costly, saying, “That is a false choice.”
He also warned about drafting new policies that focus entirely on more federal government oversight and control.
“We could have a fuller conversation about accelerating the transformation to cleaner technologies if we accept that proposing top-down government requirements to rapidly decarbonize the U.S. and global economies may not be the most realistic way to address the climate change problem,” he said.
He also warned specifically against progressives’ push for a Green New Deal.
“We should be open to the fact that wealth transfer schemes suggested in the radical policies like the Green New Deal may not be the best path to community prosperity and preparedness.”
Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah), ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, largely pushed back on the need for Wednesday’s climate change hearing, insinuating at points that it was beyond the scope of the committee and that its purpose was unclear.
“I have to mention, I’m at a loss. I don’t know where this committee is going or the other hearings because you haven’t told us what the goal is. At some point we may be asking, ‘Where are we going? What is the real legislation to help people that is supposed to come out of these hearings?’ ” Bishop said.
“Are these hearings simply for those of us around the horseshoe who are going to be making legislation or are these hearings simply for those who sit around that table in the corner so they can write cute stories,” he asked, pointing at reporters in the room.
Bishop added that he looked forward to climate change being the main emphasis for every Natural Resource subcommittee hearing in February.
“I appreciate the fact that you picked the shortest month of the year to do that,” he said.