Climate change back on the agenda in Washington

Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ). Photo: pallone.house.gov

The new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives was sworn in last week and they’ve already set an agenda for hearings addressing climate change. Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) as well as Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) have already scheduled hearings that will put climate change back into the political dialogue on Capitol Hill. We’ve stated this before but it’s noteworthy that for the first time in nearly a decade the committees tasked with ensuring our air and water is protected will be chaired by politicians who acknowledge science.

  • One of the first hearings the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold in the month of January will be titled: Assessing the environmental and economic impacts of climate change. There is no more pressing issue for our economy, our communities and our planet than climate change, and this is the first of many hearings the Committee will hold on this growing crisis. 
  • Additionally, the Natural Resources Committee’s first major hearing will be on the effect of climate change on public lands, according to Roll Call who interviewed Chairman Grijalva. He also expects to hold hearings on the environmental complications of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and has staked out a big policy fight by vowing to try to reauthorize the nation’s fishery laws, where climate change impacts will be an issue.
  • Meanwhile, it has yet to be announced which members will serve on the newly re-formed Select Committee on Climate Change, yet its Chairwoman, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) is ready to get to work despite the fact that the committee won’t be able to issue subpoenas or introduce legislation. Castor told Politico that the committee will provide a “focal point” to push the standing committees to advance policies to reduce carbon emissions. Adding that “This is a select committee on the climate crisis that is the spirit of the New Green Deal. … Our job now is to take that and put it into action: through law, through appropriations. The mechanics of that will be very labor intensive.”

In addition to happenings on Capitol Hill, yesterday Gavin Newsom was sworn in as the 40th governor of California. His predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, made climate change an utmost priority for the state and was arguably the biggest leader on climate issues after President Trump was sworn into office and began to dismantle environmental regulations. While Newsom has been supportive of Brown’s climate goals on the campaign trail, the pressure is on for California’s new governor to be the leading American political force on decarbonization and climate adaptation.

Why This Matters: Barring extraordinary political circumstances, we still have at least two years left of the Trump administration’s dangerous actions to roll back environmental regulations and allow industries to essentially self-regulate. Having a check and balance in the House of Representatives is the only accountability the Trump administration will face as they work to continue their trajectory of nefarious actions to undermine the health and safety of the American public. Additionally having a strong state effort on climate change in California can help guide the action of other states and even industries like car manufacturers.

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