On Energy and Environment, Center Moves Away from Waxman et al.

by William Yeatman on March 9, 2011

in Blog, Features

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There wasn’t much to report from yesterday’s climate change science hearing before the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Generally speaking, Republican lawmakers used the entirety of their allotted time to question the scientists they had invited, and Democratic lawmakers did likewise. Click here for opening statements, and also for an archived podcast of the hearing.

Truth be told, the hearing’s pedigree is more interesting than the hearing was. Last week, the same subcommittee held a hearing on pending EPA regulations for greenhouse gases, in order to inform the debate on H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, legislation that would check the EPA’s authority to enact climate policy under the Clean Air Act. During these hearings, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who is a master parliamentarian, leveraged an obscure procedural rule to demand a hearing of the minority party’s choosing. Subcommittee Chair Rep. Ed Whitfield, in an act of Congressional comity, granted the request. Ergo, yesterday’s “dueling science” hearing.

There was one notable element to yesterday’s action: The extent to which the center is moving away from the Democratic leadership on energy and environment policy. Rather feebly, Rep. Waxman concluded by asking that the majority party agree to postpone tomorrow’s scheduled mark up of H.R. 910…until Tuesday. It was a weak negotiating tactic.

Waxman’s weakness harkened to Rep. Gene Green’s reported pitch last week for a 5 year delay on greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act. That was significant because, until then, Congressional Democrats had been willing to countenance only a 2 year delay.

Of course, hardliners like Waxman were undercut by the bi-partisan appeal of H.R. 910. As I noted yesterday, opposition to expensive energy policies has been bipartisan in recent Congresses. This is especially true now, as gasoline surges past $3.50 and starts to dominate the politics of energy. Already, the legislation has won the support of senior House Democrats Rep. Colin Peterson and Rep. Nick Rahall.

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