WASHINGTON – A leading House Republican climate skeptic on Monday called for his party to preserve a global warming committee created by Democrats so Republicans can use it to rein in the Obama administration on the issue.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said that the economic threat posed by Environmental Protection Agency regulations deserves special attention in the next Congress.
The EPA is set to regulate greenhouse gases next year for the first time, after the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that it could treat heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide as pollutants. Many Republicans, who take control of the House in January, argue that the regulations would hurt the economy and kill jobs.
"No panel has developed more experience on these topics than the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "These regulations are moving quickly, but the oversight and subpoena power wielded by the select committee would put a tall hurdle in the path and would further expose the economic destruction these policies would bring."
EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan responded: "The commonsense and transparent steps we've taken are already proving doomsayers wrong, as evidenced by the fact that 98 percent of states have stated they're in a position to comply in January." That was a reference to every state but Texas agreeing to meet the new federal greenhouse gas emission rules that go into effect at the beginning of the year.
Sensenbrenner, the committee's top Republican, is in line to become chairman if his party keeps the panel. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the Republican Majority Transition Committee, said that the decision will be made by GOP leadership — subject to approval by the full party conference.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is expected to become House speaker, said he has not heard any discussion about the panel. But some Republicans have already advocated putting the global warming committee on ice.
"The American people do not need Congress to spend millions of dollars to write reports and fly around the world," wrote Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., in a recent Washington Times op-ed. "We must terminate this wasteful committee."
Upton is a candidate to become the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Democrats established the committee in 2007, after taking control of the House. At the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called global warming possibly "the greatest challenge of our time, setting at risk our economy, environment and national security." With the committee, she said, "the House is giving these issues the high visibility they deserve." But from the very start, Republican committee members scoffed at claims about global warming as "hot air" and "extremism."
The committee has been chaired by Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who was co-sponsor of legislation that would have limited pollution linked to global warming and redirected the nation toward greater use of clean energy. The bill narrowly passed the House last year. But it withered away in the Senate this year, despite a call for a carbon tax on fossil fuels or a cap-and-trade system for curbing greenhouse gas emissions by the National Academy of Sciences, which labeled global warming an urgent threat.
Markey spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder declined to offer an opinion on Sensenbrenner's call.
"While we agree with Congressman Sensenbrenner that the select committee is ambitious and highly experienced in energy and climate issues, renewing the committee is a matter for his party's incoming speaker," he said.