House Republican Plans to Introduce Pro-Climate-Science Bill

Chris Gibson wants the GOP to “operate in the realm of knowledge and science.”

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. In cooperation with AEP, the French company Alstom unveiled the world's largest carbon capture facility at a coal plant, so called 'clean coal,' which will store around 100,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year 2,1 kilometers (7,200 feet) underground.
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Dec. 5, 2014, 11:25 a.m.

A Republican House member is battling the skepticism toward climate-change science that’s common in GOP ranks. And he wants to put lawmakers on record in the process.

Rep. Chris Gibson said Thursday he plans to introduce a resolution on climate change that will help others “recognize the reality” of the situation. Gibson said the extreme weather he has witnessed in his own upstate New York district supports the science, and he wants to be a leader in spurring recognition of changing weather patterns.

“My district has been hit with three 500-year floods in the last several years, so either you believe that we had a one in over 100 million probability that occurred, or you believe as I do that there’s a new normal, and we have changing weather patterns, and we have climate change. This is the science,” said the two-term lawmaker who was reelected in November.

“I hope that my party—that we will come to be comfortable with this, because we have to operate in the realm of knowledge and science, and I still think we can bring forward conservative solutions to this, absolutely, but we have to recognize the reality,” Gibson said. “So I will be bringing forward a bill, a resolution that states as such, with really the intent of rallying us, to harken us to our best sense, our ability to overcome hard challenges.”

Gibson spoke at an event hosted by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, which is a pro-Republican advocacy group; a PAC that supports Republicans called Concord 51; and the Conservation Leadership Council, a group of conservatives that includes Gale Norton, who was Interior Secretary under George W. Bush. The Environmental Defense Fund helped create the CLC.

Event organizers provided a video clip of his comments. Gibson’s office did not respond to inquiries about the matter. But while the specifics of the effort aren’t yet clear, Gibson’s stances are at odds with many in the GOP’s ranks.

Ascendant Republicans on Capitol Hill are preparing fresh assaults on the White House climate agenda, and expressing continued doubts about the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels and other human activity is the leading driver of global warming.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, during his reelection campaign in Kentucky, said he is “not a scientist” when asked about climate change, a line used by a number of Republicans.

Gibson, to be sure, hardly marches in lockstep with environmentalists. He supports the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline and has voted for expanded offshore drilling.

But he also joined just two other Republicans last March in voting against a bill to scuttle EPA’s carbon-emissions rules for power plants, and he has also voted against other attacks on federal climate-change programs.

He won support in this year’s elections from the political branch of the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s very encouraging to see this kind of leadership emerging in the Congress,” Tony Kreindler, EDF Action’s senior director for strategic communications, said of Gibson’s planned resolution.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Gibson both touted his support for expanded drilling and called for more investment in federal green-energy investment, while noting the potential of solar energy as costs decline.

He expressed hope that more right-left cooperation on the environment and energy is possible. “For working-class families and small businesses … we have got to find ways to lower energy costs,” while at the same time “ensuring that we have an inhabitable Earth going forward.”

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