House GOP Plans Mega-Hearing on Climate Change

House subcommittee on Energy and Power Chairman Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., presides over a hearing on the "Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)  
National Journal
Amy Harder
Aug. 21, 2013, 3 p.m.

After vir­tu­ally ig­nor­ing the na­tion’s biggest en­vir­on­ment­al is­sue for years, Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers of the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee are plan­ning a ma­jor hear­ing on cli­mate change on Sept. 18 and are in­vit­ing lead­ers of 13 fed­er­al agen­cies to testi­fy. It will be the first time since Pres­id­ent Obama un­veiled his cli­mate ac­tion plan in June that ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials will testi­fy on Cap­it­ol Hill about the agenda.

En­ergy and Power Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Whit­field, R-Ky., who will preside over the hear­ing, sent out let­ters Aug. 6 in­vit­ing testi­mony from lead­ers of the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency; the de­part­ments of Ag­ri­cul­ture, De­fense, En­ergy, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, In­teri­or, State, and Trans­port­a­tion; the Na­tion­al Ocean­ic and At­mo­spher­ic Ad­min­is­tra­tion in the Com­merce De­part­ment; NASA; the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tion­al De­vel­op­ment; the Ex­port-Im­port Bank; and the White House Of­fice of Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy.

In the let­ters, Whit­field asks nine ques­tions about how each agency de­votes its time, money, and re­sources to cli­mate-change policies and re­quests each of­fi­cial to in­clude an­swers in his or her writ­ten testi­mony at the hear­ing. The sub­com­mit­tee had asked the agen­cies to re­spond by Wed­nes­day about who will testi­fy. By press time Wed­nes­day even­ing, only the De­fense De­part­ment had con­firmed it will provide a wit­ness, al­though a Pentagon spokes­per­son was not able to provide the name. The sub­com­mit­tee ex­pects to con­firm more wit­nesses in the com­ing days.

If it provides a wit­ness, EPA will likely be the star of the hear­ing. Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy had not con­firmed by Wed­nes­day even­ing wheth­er she or someone on her be­half would testi­fy. EPA reg­u­la­tions are the center­piece of Obama’s cli­mate plan, and by the time the hear­ing oc­curs in mid-Septem­ber, EPA should be just days away from an­noun­cing draft rules for con­trolling green­house-gas emis­sions from new power plants. When Obama an­nounced his cli­mate plan in June, he gave EPA a Sept. 20 dead­line to an­nounce these reg­u­la­tions, which will be re­pur­posed from ones the agency ini­tially pro­posed last year.

The hear­ing, en­titled “The Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Cli­mate Change Policies and Activ­it­ies,” will touch on the sci­ence un­der­pin­ning glob­al cli­mate change. A draft of a ma­jor United Na­tions re­port leaked to Re­u­ters earli­er this week showed that the pan­el of sci­entif­ic ex­perts writ­ing the U.N.’s In­ter­gov­ern­ment­al Pan­el on Cli­mate Change re­port is at least 95 per­cent cer­tain that hu­man activ­ity — primar­ily burn­ing of fossil fuels — is the biggest cause of glob­al warm­ing since the 1950s. The IP­CC is the primary guide coun­tries use when de­cid­ing how to con­front cli­mate change.

“The idea is to fo­cus it on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cli­mate-change policy; ob­vi­ously sci­ence is an in­teg­ral part of that,” said a Re­pub­lic­an com­mit­tee aide, who ad­ded that it will be “quite a pro­duc­tion” cov­er­ing a wide ar­ray of is­sues re­lated to cli­mate change.

Over the past two years, House En­ergy and Com­merce Chair­man Fred Up­ton, R-Mich., and Whit­field have ig­nored nu­mer­ous let­ters from En­ergy and Com­merce rank­ing mem­ber Henry Wax­man, D-Cal­if., and En­ergy and Power Sub­com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Bobby Rush, D-Ill., re­quest­ing a hear­ing on cli­mate change and the latest sci­ence sur­round­ing the is­sue. In the last Con­gress, the two Demo­crats sent 21 let­ters, ac­cord­ing to their count. Up­ton and Whit­field re­spon­ded to just one of those re­quests, in March of this year.

“We ab­so­lutely should hear from Ad­min­is­tra­tion wit­nesses about the threat of cli­mate change,” Wax­man said in a state­ment to Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily. “We also should be hear­ing from the na­tion’s lead­ing sci­ent­ists. Ever since the Re­pub­lic­ans took over, the Com­mit­tee has been AWOL on the biggest en­ergy is­sue fa­cing the na­tion. It’s an em­bar­rass­ing re­cord that needs to change.”

The agency heads the sub­com­mit­tee has re­ques­ted to testi­fy are: Mc­Carthy; En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz; HHS Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us; Ag­ri­cul­ture Sec­ret­ary Tom Vil­sack; Trans­port­a­tion Sec­ret­ary An­thony Foxx; In­teri­or Sec­ret­ary Sally Jew­ell; De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel; Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry; USAID Ad­min­is­trat­or Rajiv Shah; Ex­port-Im­port Bank Chair­man and Pres­id­ent Fred Hoch­berg; White House Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy Dir­ect­or John Hold­ren; NOAA Ad­min­is­trat­or Kath­ryn Sul­li­van; and NASA Ad­min­is­trat­or Charles Bolden Jr.

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