House Climate Hearing: The Real Story | Commentary

Posted September 8, 2014 at 3:14pm

Continuing their assault on Obama administration efforts to protect public health and fight climate change, House Republicans are staging a show-trial on Tuesday, giving voice to naysayers from around the country who are predicting doom and gloom.

Here’s a reality check — what you won’t hear when Rep. Edward Whitfield, R-Ky., convenes the subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to denounce the alleged “unprecedented new regulatory authority” in the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution standards for power plants, announced in June.

You won’t hear from the Republican majority, for instance, that the Clean Power Plan to cut dangerous carbon pollution has met an outpouring of support from mayors, governors and other elected officials around the country, businessmen, farm groups, electric utility executives and public health experts.

Just last week attorneys general from 11 states, from California to Maine, announced they would intervene in court to defend the rules on new and existing power plant emissions against a suit filed by West Virginia and other states.

The hearing won’t mention that climate science denial has become an exclusive franchise of the right wing of the Republican party. Fresh scientific reports this year confirmed that heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are driving the extreme weather that is already affecting many parts of the country. Polls show that a solid majority of Americans believe that human activity is causing climate change — and they want the government do something about it.

The Clean Power Plan aims to cut carbon pollution by 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2005, a less ambitious target than many environmentalists proposed. The plan sets targets according to each state’s current energy mix, allows for regional trading arrangements, and gives states broad flexibility to meet the targets through reducing energy waste, cleaning up existing plants, and using renewables and other cleaner energy sources. It could lower utility bills for most customers and create hundreds of thousands of new clean energy jobs.

Republicans won’t note that EPA consulted extensively with the utility industry and a number of executives have praised the result. “We believe [the plan] has enough flexibility that we can work with our state on implementation that’s achievable and also cost-effective for our customers,” Patricia Kampling, the CEO of Alliant Energy, which serves customers in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, said when the proposal was announced.

Similarly, the Chairman, CEO and President of California’s Pacific Gas and Electric, Tom Early, said in June, “We appreciate EPA’s open and transparent process, as well as its extensive outreach in developing this proposed rule.”

The subcommittee won’t hear from any of the governors who have embraced the EPA proposal, such as Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, the fifth-largest coal producing state: “Moving toward a cleaner, more reliable and resilient energy system will bring significant benefits to our communities and our state,” he said. Illinois’ strides in energy efficiency and renewables already “have driven down energy costs for consumers [and] created thousands jobs,” he said.

Many farmers like it, too. “The changing climate has already begun to affect agriculture,” said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. “I commend the administration for its leadership on climate change mitigation.”

And the subcommittee won’t examine the enormous public health benefits to be won. “Power plant pollution makes people sick and cuts short lives,” the American Lung Association said when the proposal was unveiled. “We are pleased to see significant health benefits” from the plan.

In short, there’s a lot of good news about the Clean Power Plan. You just won’t learn it at today’s hearing.

Franz Matzner is the associate director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.