EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Ted. Cruz, R-Texas, led a coalition of 12 other Republicans on Monday, writing to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to express concern over a recent climate rule that could impact the agency's mission.
In the letter, Cruz — the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee — and all other committee Republicans demanded that NASA Administrator Bill Nelson abandon the rule which was proposed in November and requires federal contractors to disclose greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data. The 13 GOP lawmakers said the regulation was not based in science and would lead to political favoritism.
"Congress never granted NASA or the other partnering agencies the statutory authority to set the GHG emission standards for themselves or their contractors," Cruz and the other committee Republicans wrote.
"As for the environmental benefits, the proposed rule admits they would be hard to even quantify and that ‘increased public transparency and accountability may prompt suppliers to take action following a ‘what gets measured gets managed’ mantra.’"
The letter argued the "highly politicized regulation" would divert the agency's attention away from its stated mission to "explore the unknown in air and space, innovate for the benefit of humanity, and inspire the world through discovery."
On Nov. 14, NASA issued the proposed rule alongside the Department of Defense (DOD) and General Services Administration (GSA). In addition to the GHG disclosure requirement, federal contractors would be required to disclose climate-related financial "risk" and to establish "science-based" GHG emission reduction targets.
The rule came days after President Biden announced it during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Egypt. The White House said the rule was part of Biden's "leadership to implement the first comprehensive, government-wide strategy to measure, disclose, manage, and mitigate the systemic risks that climate change poses to American families."
However, Commerce Committee Republicans said the rule was unnecessary and would increase costs.
"The regulation is estimated to increase total costs among federal agencies and contractors by almost $4 billion," the Republicans' letter to Nelson continued. "If NASA does not need any of these funds to fulfill its mission, then those resources should be returned to the Treasury."
"The costs to individual contractors, many of which are small businesses, would equal hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars upfront and annually thereafter. Smaller firms with limited streams of resources compared to larger companies may have to either exit the government contracting market or consolidate with other entities."
Cruz and the other Republicans added that the rule would decrease competition among contractors which they warned is "a major problem already facing federal contracting."
The lawmakers also expressed concern that the rule defers judgment on standards to the Science-Based Targets Initiative, an international climate-focused organization. They said the group has yet to publish new GHG emission guidance for the fossil fuel and mining industries, "making it impossible to be in compliance."
The NASA, DOD and GSA regulation also exempts tribes, non-profit organizations, universities, state and local governments which the Republicans wrote made it appear that the Biden administration was less concerned about science and more concerned with political favoritism toward special interest groups.
"In addition to enriching the politically left-aligned consultants that will supposedly track a company’s impact on GHG emissions, there is no practical way to verify or audit the validity of these disclosures," the letter concluded.
"This ‘data’ may, however, lead to numerous lawsuits and enforcement actions that will add to the cost and delays associated with federal procurement." they wrote. "The only true beneficiaries of this proposed rule will be nonprofits, consultants, and trial lawyers claiming to be self-appointed guardians against weather-related catastrophe."
"After repeated failed attempts to enact radical environmental policies through legislation, this proposed rule is another example of the administration’s strategy to implement its agenda through unelected bureaucrats. Such undemocratic policymaking will only increase costs, reduce progress, and have a chilling effect on needed energy investment in the United States."
Republican Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Todd Young of Indiana, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, JD Vance of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming signed onto the letter.
NASA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.