As Democrats assume control of the House and its various committees, Republicans are having to adapt to being the minority. On Wednesday, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on climate change — part of what committee Democrats say will be a full court press on this issue — prompting outrage from Republicans.
“Climate change is NOT in committee jurisdiction” tweeted Kristina Baum, the Republican minority communications director for the House Natural Resources Committee.
The hearing, which made the case that climate change disproportionately harms communities of color, comes amidst a broader push by Democrats to make climate change a central issue; the most prominent example being a resolution co-authored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to create a committee on a Green New Deal, which garnered the support of high-profile Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker.
While Republicans point to the fact that climate change isn’t specifically enumerated in the committee’s official list of responsibilities, many of those responsibilities can’t be addressed without dealing with climate change. For example, Rule X(m), on the Natural Resources Committee’s jurisdiction, lists fossil fuel items specifically, such as “Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline,” and “petroleum conservation on public lands.”
The list also mentions environmental domains already affected by climate change: “conservation…[of] fisheries and wildlife,” “public lands generally,” and “forest reserves and national parks.”
“Almost everything in our jurisdiction either contributes to or is impacted by climate change,” Adam Sarvana, communications director for the Natural Resources Committee, told TYT. “We oversee fossil fuel extraction on public lands. We oversee the health of our national forests and national parks. We oversee federal policy in Indian Country. We oversee oceans and coastal zones. We oversee federal water resource management.”
He said, “If they don’t see the climate change jurisdiction in what this Committee exists to do, that’s their business, but that does nothing to diminish the urgency of the climate work the Democratic majority will do in this Congress.”
Speaking for committee Republicans, Baum told TYT, “We do not have jurisdiction over EPA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, clean energy, or even climate science….You will not see ‘climate change’ on the generous list of detailed items in committee jurisdiction.”
Baum added, “The House Energy and Commerce committee has the regulation of fossil fuels, conservation of energy, and the list goes on. It seems as though the Democrats are mistaking us for either the House Energy and Commerce Committee or the House Science Committee.”
The former digital director for the committee, Ben Goldey, who is also a Republican, echoed the sentiment.
Former committee chair, and now ranking member, Rob Bishop (R-UT), reportedly said that climate change is not in the committee’s jurisdiction but that it does help reporters “write cute stories.”
At the same event, Bishop added, “I know you have made February climate change month. I appreciate the fact that you picked the shortest month of the year to do that.”
Oil and gas are listed as Bishop’s top industry contributors this past cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Bishop did not immediately respond to TYT’s request for comment.
The Republican rhetoric comes in response to a more aggressive climate posture on the part of the new Democratic majority.
“We’re not stopping with today’s event,” Sarvana said, referring to the hearing on climate change. “Our climate hearing schedule is packed throughout the month because that’s the best way to inform lawmakers and prepare legislation. It’s a clear departure from Republican practice and rhetoric on climate change.”