The newest members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology may give a sense of the direction the panel could take in the era of President Trump.
Under Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the committee has earned a reputation for questioning climate scientists and environmental groups that say human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is the main cause of rising temperatures. The panel has also challenged government scientists who refuted the theory of a global warming pause, a favorite conservative talking point.
Smith himself believes that humans are contributing to warming, to some degree, but not to the level of impact that scientists predict will happen.
Some of the committee's new members reject climate science altogether, even as other conservative lawmakers have softened their skeptical views to appear more reasonable. On Friday, the committee announced the appointment of six new members.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who was elected to Congress this fall, said in October as a state senator that climate change is “leftist propaganda.”
“I believe that climate change in this country is largely leftist propaganda to change the way Americans live and create more government obstruction and intrusion in our lives,” Banks said at a candidates forum in Indiana, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported.
His rejection of the basic science of climate change, which skeptics like Smith concede is happening, was echoed by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.). Biggs, the former president of the Arizona state Senate, said on the campaign trail this fall that the climate isn't changing.
“I do not believe climate change is occurring,” he responded to a candidate survey from the Arizona Republic. “I do not think that humans have a significant impact on climate. The federal government should stop regulating and stomping on our economy and freedoms in the name of a discredited theory.”
Kristina Baum, a committee spokeswoman, said the new makeup of the panel doesn't signal a new direction on climate change.
“There isn't anything to read into about the new committee members,” she said. “All committee chairman go through a process of recruiting new members, and new members have a choice, as well. For example, Florida is a Space Coast state, so our committee is commonly sought by members from space-interested states.”
The committee has influence on climate research and environmental regulations. It has jurisdiction over $40 billion in federal budgets, and it oversees NASA, the Department of Energy, U.S. EPA, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the top Democrat on the committee, declined to comment. Her side of the aisle is also adding a new panel member, Rep. Jacky Rosen of Nevada, a proponent of government action against climate change.
GOP lawmaker has an open mind
Some of the other new GOP members have acknowledged that humans play a role in changing the climate, but they stop short of saying it justifies stronger environmental protections.
Republican Rep. Neal Dunn, a surgeon from Panama City, Fla., has said the United States should not follow “global warming alarmists” like President Obama. He said the science is too uncertain to justify environmental protections that could stifle industry.
“I am sure human activity plays some role, but I don't think the science is clear on how much is man-made and how much is natural,” Dunn told the Panama City News Herald during his campaign.
“What I do know is that the United States should not follow the path of the global warming alarmists like the Obama administration who wants us to unilaterally handicap ... industry with over-burdensome EPA regulations,” he added. “That will only further empower China, who is actually the largest polluter in the world.”
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) has blamed coastal erosion in Louisiana not on rising sea levels, but on locks and dams that have prevented the natural flow of sediment in the river. He proposed installing a pipeline that would pump sediment into coastal areas and said it is not energy companies causing the seas to rise.
“I've never met a Republican who wants dirty air and dirty water or who wants to destroy the earth,” he said on his campaign website. “However, jobs and economic growth must come first. Obama's over-the-top restrictions on methane and carbon dioxide and his onerous limits on operating on federal land have hurt America.”
Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) has signed a pledge from Americans for Prosperity against new taxes related to climate change mitigation and has voted to prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) has perhaps the most moderate views among the new appointees. There is little in the public record about his views on climate change, but he did defend the encyclical by Pope Francis last year that called on humanity to address climate as a moral issue.
Marshall said people needed to be “open-minded” to the pope's message.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.