Republicans Voice Climate-Change Doubts in Advance of EPA Regs

In a House hearing Wednesday, Republicans called the proposed new limits on coal emissions an unnecessary presidential power grab.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, right, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz testify before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. The energy panel meeting Wednesday comes just days before a deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency to release a revised proposal setting the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide from newly built power plants. 
National Journal
Coral Davenport
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Coral Davenport
Sept. 18, 2013, 11:16 a.m.

As President Obama’s controversial climate-change plan revs into full gear this week, Republicans are seeking to paint it as a vast executive power grab that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars — all to address a problem many in the GOP say doesn’t exist.

With the Environmental Protection Agency scheduled Friday to release the first in a series of regulations reining in carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, House Republicans are already on the attack. Wednesday, Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, a coal-state Republican and unabashed climate-science skeptic, chaired a House Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing called, he said, for the express purpose of examining “the scope of federal climate-change actions that have been tolling billions of dollars a year in spending and countless man-hours of work since the mid-1990s, reaching over $22 billion this year alone.” As soon as the agency puts out its draft rule, Whitfield plans to introduce a bill to block the regulation.

Together, the hearing and rule set the stage for a coming battle over climate change in the 2014 midterm elections. While Whitfield’s bill stands no chance of passage in the Democratically controlled Senate, Republican strategists hope that it will put House Democrats in a tough position: Democrats from coal-, rust-, and farm-belt states who vote against rolling back the rule will see that vote haunt them in campaign ads, said Jordan Davis, policy director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. At the same time, Organizing for Action, the advocacy group that grew out of President Obama’s 2012 campaign, is running online ads and holding demonstrations targeting Republican “climate deniers.”

Obama, who in his first term failed to push climate-change legislation through Congress, has in his second term directed every Cabinet agency to present plans to act on climate change within their existing executive authority. Republicans are now calling attention to that effort as a way to claim the president is abusing his executive power. Whitfield invited representatives of 13 agencies to testify at Wednesday’s hearing, including the departments of Defense, State, Interior, Health, Agriculture, and Transportation — and slammed the president for ultimately sending only EPA chief Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to the hearing. “Eleven agencies requested to testify — twice, I might add — did not provide a witness or submit information about agency activity to the subcommittee. That does not send a positive message for increased public understanding of what this administration is doing on an economically consequential matter,” Whitfield said.

McCarthy and Moniz confronted the attacks head-on, reminding lawmakers that the science of climate change is clearly established, that their agencies have legal authority to tackle it, and that climate change is also wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy.

“The evidence is overwhelming, the science is clear, and the threat from climate change is real and urgent. This is my judgment, and it is the almost universal judgment of the scientific community,” said Moniz, who was previously head of the physics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The threat of a warming planet to our communities, our infrastructure, and our way of life is also clear. Rising sea levels and increasingly severe droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and major storms are already costing our economy billions of dollars a year, and these impacts are only going to grow more severe. Common sense demands that we take action. This is the driving force behind the president’s climate-action plan.”

McCarthy, who was just confirmed to the EPA post in July, asserted that under the law — specifically, the 1970 Clean Air Act — her agency has the legal authority to regulate carbon pollution.

Republicans, particularly Whitfield and others from coal states, continued to push back at established climate science. Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia cited reports that the rate of climate change has slowed in recent years, and he called the climate rules “an abuse of the president’s executive authority.” Moniz retorted that despite the recently recorded slowdown in atmospheric global warming, the last 10 years are still the hottest decade in recorded history. “Changes in the rate of increase are expected,” he said. “This pattern of effects was predicted decades ago. This is not being made up”¦. The last several years have seen a slowdown of warming.”¦ It does not obviate the overwhelming conclusion that global warming is going on.”

A group of protesters from Greenpeace seemed to concur. Sitting quietly in the audience, the group, dressed discreetly in suits and ties, donned tinfoil tri-corner hats whenever a Republican questioned or denied the science of climate change.

What We're Following See More »
SAYS WALL WILL NEVER BE BUILT
Report: Kelly Calls Trump “Uninformed”
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told Democratic lawmakers Wednesday that the United States will never construct a physical wall along the entire stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and that some of President Trump’s campaign promises on immigration were 'uninformed.'”

Source:
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN SUSPICIOUS CHECKS FLAGGED
Mueller’s Team Scrutinizing Russian Embassy Transactions
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
TOLD NOT TO DISCUSS WHITE HOUSE WORK
Bannon’s Attorney Passed Along Questions to White House
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Steve Bannon’s attorney relayed questions, in real time, to the White House during a House Intelligence Committee interview of the former Trump chief strategist" on Tuesday. "Bannon’s attorney Bill Burck was asking the White House counsel’s office by phone whether his client could answer the questions. He was told by that office not to discuss his work on the transition or in the White House."

Source:
HAS LED ENERGY ASSN FOR TEN YEARS
Jack Gerard Stepping Down from API
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The top lobbyist for the U.S. oil-and-gas industry is stepping down after 10 years on the job. Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, sent an email to his staff on Wednesday morning saying that he decided not to seek another five-year contract with the nation’s largest oil-and-gas industry trade association."

Source:
MORE FALLOUT FROM “SHITHOLE” COMMENT
CBC, Judiciary Committee Dems Move to Censure Trump
3 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login