Energy & Environment

Newly-formed House climate panel holds first hearing

Greg Nash

A new committee formed by House Democrats to address climate change held its first hearing on Thursday, welcoming young leaders in the Green movement. 

The first hearing of the long-awaited committee championed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), called the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, was intended to provide a platform for those most affected by climate change to make the case for action. To mark its first hearing, the panel welcomed a group of young climate activists who testified about their experiences with climate change.

“What is necessary to address the climate crisis is to stop carbon pollution from accumulating in the atmosphere. That requires action. Urgent action. Ambitious action,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who chairs the panel.

Yet the meeting largely highlighted the division between the parties.

As Democrats pressed for the need for a swift response, some Republican lawmakers instead stressed the need for effective solutions that balance the economic activity driven by polluting industries.

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), the ranking member on the panel, pushed the largely college-aged witnesses for solutions on how they would craft policy that would balance concern for the environment with existing local economies that rely in some way on fossil fuels.

Other Republican members from states with large coal and oil and gas industries spoke up for those sectors.

“I have seen the devastation that a top-down, one-size-fits all government approach can cause. We saw this with the war on coal from the Obama administration. The decimation of the coal industry in our state ravished our economy,” said Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.). “It created great hopelessness and ultimately lead to the rise in our opioid crisis.”

The hearing left unanswered many questions as to what sort of climate policies might come out of the committee.

A number of lawmakers, including some House Democrats, have questioned the legitimacy of the committee, given its lack of subpoena power and legislation-writing authority.

Witnesses included Aji Piper, a plaintiff in Juliana v. United States, a case that asserts the government violated young people’s rights by allowing activities that were harmful to the climate. Lindsay Cooper, a policy analyst with Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-La.), and climate activists Chris Suggs and Melody Zhang also testified.

Several focused on the disproportionate impact climate change has on poor communities and communities of color.

Suggs, whose hometown of Kinston, N.C., has repeatedly flooded after hurricanes, said, “For me, the saddest thing about these recurring natural disasters that are exacerbated by climate change is that the communities that are most affected, like mine, are often the communities that have already been hit the hardest by all of society’s other problems.”

Tags Carol Miller Climate change Garret Graves House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Kathy Castor Nancy Pelosi

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