Waxman and Rush again prod House GOP leaders to hold global warming hearing

Are recent wildfires and 100-degree summer days linked to global warming? House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman and Energy and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Rush sent a July 13 letter to committee Chairman Fred Upton and subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield urging them to hold a hearing on climate change and whether these recent extreme weather events are related.

Waxman and Rush, who said this is their fifteenth letter making this request, wrote: “Willful ignorance of the science is irresponsible and it is dangerous… Congress cannot legislate responsibly if we do not listen to the experts and do not know what the consequences of our votes will be. That is why hearings are essential and why we are once again asking that the Committee hold them.”

The letter noted that an April 6, 2011, every Republican member of the committee voted that climate change is not occurring. Many Republican members explained their position by arguing that “the science is not settled” and that “anthropogenic global warming is still an issue that the scientists are still debating,” the letter added.

“Since that time, we have written you fourteen times to request hearings on the science of climate change,” Waxman and Rush wrote. “Our premise was that if you and other Republican members had genuine doubts about the strength of the science, you would welcome hearings at which Committee members could hear testimony from the nation’s leading experts. Yet you have not responded to any of our letters. In April, we wrote to request a hearing on the unprecedented heat wave that the nation experienced in March. More than 15,000 warm temperature records were set that month as the contiguous United States experienced the warmest March on record. Previously, we wrote to request hearings on other important climate change topics, including major reports from the National Academy of Sciences, the Vatican, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, the International Energy Agency, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These requests all went unanswered.”

The letter pointed out that states facing severe losses of corn and other crops due to drought include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio. More than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires this year. Another example of extreme weather is that in 2011, Texas had the most fires in recorded history. This summer, Colorado has been fighting the state’s most destructive wildfires ever. Last month, Florida was inundated by days of downpours. Also last month, Duluth, Minn., suffered its most damaging flood in history due to torrential rains. “Scientists are increasingly saying that these events are the climate change consequences they have been anticipating,” said the letter.

Democrats say GOP ignoring the science and the threat of global warming

“Climate change is a grave threat facing our nation and the world, yet you refuse to hold hearings and the Republican-controlled House votes repeatedly to block action to address climate change,” wrote Waxman and Rush. “In total, the House has voted 37 times this year to overturn EPA’s scientific findings that climate change endangers health and the environment, to stop regulations to reduce carbon emissions, to prevent the United States from participating in international negotiations, and even to cut funding for basic climate science. This is a shameful record.”

As Waxman and Rush stated, the GOP-controlled House tried a number of times to either de-fund the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or strip it of authority over things like coal-fired power plant environmental controls. Those measures consistently get blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

It is not as if the committee is completely ignoring the greenhouse gas subject. On July 16, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power was due to hold a field hearing in Abingdon, Va., with a focus on EPA’s proposed Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for utilities and the impact this proposed regulation will have on jobs. This measure would set emissions standards for new power plants based on gas-fired plants, mandating that any new coal-fired plants be fitted with CO2 controls.

“The subcommittee will hear local perspectives on EPA’s new standards for power plants and the potential consequences for jobs and energy production in Southwest Virginia,” said a committee schedule. “This field hearing follows two hearings held by the subcommittee last month, June 19, 2012 and June 29, 2012, on the topic of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.”

Upton is from Michigan, Whitfield from the coal-producing state of Kentucky, Waxman from California and Rush from the coal-producing state of Illinois. Notable is that Rush’s district is around Chicago, far from the southern Illinois coalfields, while Whitfield’s district is in the heart of the western Kentucky coalfields.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.