The Energy 202: Top House Democrats don’t agree on who should lead on climate change

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Friday, November 16, 2018

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) listens as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) speaks about flood insurance in Union Beach, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Democrats poised to retake the House majority will attempt to tackle an issue their GOP counterparts largely ignored while they controlled both chambers of Congress: climate change.

That, at least, Democrats can agree on. Who should spearhead the Herculean job of addressing climate change — all while Republicans still control the Senate and the White House — is a different matter.

There is a turf battle underway within the new Democratic majority over how it should wield its new power to address what scientists say is an ecological crisis the world has precious little time to solve.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), looking to corral support from the party’s progressive wing and again be elected speaker of the House, said she “strongly” supports reestablishing a special committee on climate change. By doing so she is meeting one of the demands from a group of protesters — one of whom was high-profile Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — who occupied Pelosi’s office Tuesday.

A day after Pelosi tweeted out her support for creating a special climate committee, three expected chairs of existing committees — Science, Space, and Technology’s Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), Energy and Commerce’s Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Natural Resouces’s Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) — said that they plan to hold two days’ worth of hearings on climate change early next year.

Two of those ranking members, Pallone and Johnson, have already voiced apprehension about duplicating the efforts of their own panels.

“There are already four committees that have jurisdiction over climate change, and we have climate change champions leading all these committees,” Pallone said.

Johnson meanwhile wondered what a select committee, which before being disbanded by Republicans in 2011 was purely a fact-finding panel, could achieve with the president regularly dismisses the scientific consensus that human activity is warming the globe.

“I don’t know what a special select committee would do to change the executive branch,” Johnson said in an interview last week. “But that is where we will have to do a lot of negotiation, a lot of understanding to move forward.”

Ben Guarino contributed to this report.