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Republicans push back at first climate hearings

Republicans push back at first climate hearings

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 John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump 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.

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“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 TonkoOvernight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Democrats question EPA postponement of environmental inequality training Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race 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 ShimkusHere are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Women rise on K Street — slowly 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 BishopRepublicans in campaign mode for top spots on House environmental committees Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it 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.