US House Democrats, back in power, push climate agenda
Petroleumworld 03 06 2019
Democrats in the US House of Representatives, after eight years out of power, today began holding hearings on climate change as they try to generate support for programs that would constrain carbon emissions.
Democrats see the climate hearings are an instrumental step to addressing a threat they say Republicans ignored or dismissed when they held power. But party leaders have yet to rally behind specific proposals or offer a credible political path to pass ambitious bills that could be signed into law.
"Today we turn the page on this committee from climate change denial to climate action," US House Natural Resources Committee chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) said.
Republicans say they are open to bipartisan solutions on climate change. But they used the hearings held by two House panels to fault proposals they say are too radical and would impose major costs on consumers, such as a Democratic proposal for a "Green New Deal" that has set a target for 100pc renewable electricity within a decade.
"Wealth transfer schemes suggested in the radical policies like the Green New Deal may not be the best path to community prosperity and preparedness," the US House Energy and Commerce Committee's environment subcommittee ranking member John Shimkus (R-Illinois) said.
The hearings, which were delayed because of the 35-day government shutdown, coincided with the release of a government report that said 2018 was the fourth warmest on record. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report said land temperatures last year were 2°F higher than average and arctic sea ice volumes were the second lowest on record.
The last major legislative initiative on climate change was in 2009, when the Democratic-controlled House passed a major cap-and-trade bill only to see it defeated in the Senate and contribute to deep losses in the following mid-term election. That led former president Barack Obama to shift focus toward climate regulations, many of which President Donald Trump is trying to dismantle.
Democrats could use upcoming hearings to scrutinize those regulatory rollbacks and discuss climate bills. But some Republicans questioned the motive of Democrats. House Natural Resources ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said the committee has limited power to address climate and wondered if the hearings were so the media could "write cute stories."
Trump as recently as 20 January mocked the threat of climate change during a widespread cold snap. "Would not be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned global warming right now!" he said. But Democrats saw reasons for optimism today when Republican committee leaders, such as Shimkus, said climate change was a risk that should be addressed.
"I am glad to see that a ranking member is saying it is something that has to be dealt with and is real," House Energy and Commerce chairman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) said.
The Republican-controlled US Senate has yet to schedule climate hearings. But Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) yesterday said he was looking forward to "expected climate hearings" after talks with committee chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
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