Republicans Ready Hearings on Obama 'Climate Action Plan'

Wednesday, 21 Aug 2013 10:09 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a major hearing on climate change next month, asking Obama administration officials to testify about a proposed plan that has been bashed by the GOP as a job-killer.

Details of the Sept. 18 hearing, reported by the National Journal Wednesday night, comes just a week after the Environmental Protection Agency warned it would bypass Congress to move forward with a federal response.

President Obama's climate action plan, unveiled in June, has drawn biting criticism from Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who blasted it as a “war on coal” and a “war on jobs.”

Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman, Kentucky Republican Ed Whitfield, who will preside over the hearing, sent out letters Aug. 6 inviting testimony from leaders of the EPA ; 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, the National Journal reported.

Whitfield wants each agency to explain how it devotes its time, money, and resources to climate-change policies -- and requests each official to include answers in written testimony.

Only the Defense Department had confirmed it will provide a witness, the Journal reported.

But it's the EPA's testimony that is the most anticipated.

EPA regulations are the centerpiece of the Obama plan, and by the time the hearing opens, the agency will be just days away from announcing draft rules for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions from new power plants.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy said she's done waiting for Congress, and that the agency would bypass the legislative branch to develop a federal response if necessary.

“Essentially, [the president] said that it is time to act,” she said in Boulder, Colo., on Aug. 14.

“And he said he wasn’t going to wait for Congress, but that he had administrative authorities and that it was time to start utilizing those more effectively and in a more concerted way.”

When Obama announced his climate plan in June, he gave EPA a Sept. 20 deadline.

The hearing -- "The Obama Administration's Climate Change Policies and Activities" -- will touch on the science underpinning global climate change, the Journal reported.

The panel of scientific experts writing the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report it is at least 95 percent certain human activity — primarily burning of fossil fuels — is the biggest cause of global warming since the 1950s, according to a draft of the report.

"The idea is to focus it on the administration's climate-change policy; obviously science is an integral part of that," a Republican committee aide told the Journal, adding 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 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, the Journal reported.

In the last Congress, the two Democrats sent 21 letters, according to their count. Upton and Whitfield responded to just one.

"We absolutely should hear from Administration witnesses about the threat of climate change," Waxman told the National Journal.

"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."

In 2009, Congress rejected a bill to establish a cap-and-trade system designed to discourage greenhouse-gas emissions. That measure, known as the Waxman-Markey bill, passed the House but was defeated in the Senate at a time when Democrats controlled both houses.

Obama has come under fierce criticism from environmentalists faulting him for a lack of attention to global warming.

Reuters contributed to this report

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