Vitter asks Obama for climate change witnesses

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, sent an Oct. 7 letter asking President Obama to provide relevant federal witnesses at an upcoming committee climate change hearing.

EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., had previously denied his efforts to get federal witnesses for a July hearing to speak on the Administration’s climate plans, Vitter said. Boxer has recently announced plans to convene another hearing later this month.

“There is little point in holding a hearing on climate change policy that excludes witnesses from the federal government best suited to explain [the President’s] Climate Action Plan,” wrote Vitter. “As your Climate Action Plan sets in motion a litany of new actions with significant economic implications, those in your Administration charged with implementing your agenda should be made available to testify as to the scope, purpose, and consequences of such unilateral action.”

The upcoming hearing is expected to cover a range of topics, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent proposal for greenhouse gas performance standards for new power plants, the first step in the Administration’s Climate Action Plan, as well as the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report.

In July, the EPW Republican senators asked Chairman Boxer to reconsider her decision to exclude government witnesses from the EPW hearing “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now.” The hearing commenced without any federal witnesses. 

“As your Climate Action Plan sets in motion a litany of new actions with significant economic implications, those in your Administration charged with implementing your agenda should be made available to testify as to the scope, purpose, and consequences of such unilateral action,” said Vitter in the Oct. 7 letter.

He added: “One example of the breadth of the undertaking includes the creation of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC). The SCC estimates developed and recently revised by the IWG are crucial to your Administration’s climate change agenda because the higher the estimate, the more theoretical benefits can be attributed to costly environmental regulations. The SCC estimates will be used across the federal enterprise to justify the costs and benefits of regulations, from EPA standards for existing power plants to the approval of the Keystone pipeline. For such an important building block in your climate agenda, at least eleven Executive Branch entities worked behind closed doors without public participation or adherence to well-understood and accepted rules and guidelines. If it took at a minimum eleven Executive Branch entities to develop the SCC estimates, it would seem that it may take at least that number to implement the multitude of actions required by the Climate Action Plan, including those with an international component.”

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.