A top Republican senator is crying foul after the Environmental Protection Agency and a key White House office declined to take part in an upcoming hearing on the administration’s role in international climate negotiations, ahead of a landmark conference in Paris next month.
The Tuesday hearing was initially pitched as a joint hearing between the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC.) The hearing now is expected to be held only by the SFRC and to feature one witness -- the Obama administration's special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern.
Republican EPW sources told FoxNews.com that Democrats in the SFRC objected to a joint hearing, while invitations to the EPA and White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) were both declined. EPW Chairman Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who is well-known for his global warming skepticism, voiced frustration at the response.
“The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have made it extremely difficult to provide necessary and appropriate Congressional oversight to the president’s international climate negotiations,” Inhofe said in a statement.
The hearing will be held in anticipation of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of November. The conference is a critical summit for an administration that has made cutting carbon emissions a centerpiece of its second-term agenda. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday that President Obama is considering attending the Paris talks.
Considering the summit's importance, Republicans want to question top environmental policy officials in the administration on their intentions.
“The CEQ has always been any administration's filter, and played a leadership role, on environmental issues and international environmental issues. The EPA is responsible for what we can tell to be the vast majority of the 26-28 percent of greenhouse gas reductions and yet we believe that ultimately this hearing will not feature the environmental agencies and will solely feature Mr. Stern,” a Senate EPW majority aide told FoxNews.com.
“We believe a hearing featuring all those witnesses would be useful, as witnesses have a tendency to defer to witnesses who are not in the room and it would be helpful to get a comprehensive perspective from the administration for the Senate of what will be part of this agreement, what has led up to this, what interagency interaction there has been, and the work involved.”
But in a letter responding to Inhofe, the EPA said the hearing would be out of the purview of the agency.
“[The] agency cannot speak to the full suite of domestic policies that are being considered in these negotiations and is not the party responsible for developing the total emissions reduction numbers for the U.S.,” Associate Administrator Laura Vaught wrote.
While Tuesday's hearing will now be conducted solely by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, EPW Republicans said they want to hold their own hearing with Stern, the EPA and the CEQ later in the year. However, the State Department has informed the committee that Stern would not be able to attend an EPW hearing unless the EPA or CEQ also were in attendance.
The aide told FoxNews.com they consider scrutiny of the upcoming Paris agreement to be important, saying it would mirror the Kyoto agreement – which the U.S. did not ratify – and require a substantial commitment to the international community.
The White House already has enlisted a number of companies to bolster its push for an international climate pledge
White House officials say 81 companies have signed on to the American Business Act on Climate pledge, including Intel, Coca-Cola, Google and Walmart. By signing, the companies promise to advocate for a strong climate deal ahead of the negotiations in Paris.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.