Congress targets Obama’s climate agenda

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, left, and EPA Director Gina McCarthy, right
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, left, and EPA Director Gina McCarthy, right
Associated Press

It’s been about three months since President Obama unveiled a fairly ambitious agenda to combat the climate crisis, and in the immediate aftermath, Republicans had very little to say about it. Indeed, Politico reported in June that GOP leaders came up with a game plan: ignore the speech, ignore global warming, and generally ignore science altogether.

That approach will change today.

President Barack Obama’s plans to curb the gases blamed for global warming are heading to their first test, a House hearing in which administration officials make their case before skeptical lawmakers.

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.

You might be thinking, “Wait, why would Congress matter in this?” and at a certain level, it doesn’t. The Obama administration is using its regulatory authority to combat the climate crisis, taking advantage of powers the U.S. Supreme Court has already endorsed. As was reported in June, “The president outlined a series of climate proposals he intended to advance through executive action, sidestepping a Congress mired in gridlock in its handling of most matters, let alone politically touchy energy and climate issues.”

But while Congress struggles mightily to create, it finds it easier to destroy. Rep. Ed Whitfield, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce panel on energy and power, is a conservative Kentucky Republican who already intends to push legislation to place new limits on what the EPA can do to regulate carbon pollution from power plants. For that matter, as the AP added, “Congress could also hinder the EPA by slashing its budget.”

Indeed, it’s difficult to know just how far congressional Republicans are prepared to go to stop the White House from addressing the climate crisis, which makes today’s hearing that much more interesting – we’re about to get a big hint.

As Greg Sargent explained yesterday:

Gina McCarthy, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, will be testifying. She is already something of a lightning rod, so this is legitimately a big deal: House Republicans will probably be signaling how they will respond when the EPA rolls out its new rules governing carbon emissions on new power plans, a central item on Obama’s agenda that is going to provoke a huge fight. There may well also be fireworks about Keystone XL, the pipeline project that liberals have demanded Obama block to prove he’s serious about long term efforts to combat global warming.

What’s particularly interesting about this is that some of the House Republicans on the committee – the Energy and Power subcommittee – conducting the hearing are already on record casting doubt on climate science. GOP Rep. Joe Barton has said climate science is “not settled.” GOP Rep. David McKinley has claimed the same. And GOP Rep. John Shimkus has claimed global warming isn’t a worry because “God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.”

So, on one side of the witness table, we’ll see EPA Director Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. On the other, we’ll see a series of congressional Republicans who reject scientific evidence, prefer to see ExxonMobil write energy legislation, and pretend global warming isn’t real.

It’s bound to be an interesting afternoon.

EPA, Environmental Policy and Global Warming

Congress targets Obama's climate agenda