In Texas Field Hearing, House Subcommittee To Attack EPA as State Faces Another Year of Devastating Drought
The Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House of Representative's Committee on Energy and Commerce will be in Texas on Thursday (24 March 2011) holding a hearing on “EPA’s Greenhouse Gas and Clean Air Act Regulations: A Focus on Texas’ Economy, Energy Prices and Jobs.” The hearing will focus on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Air Act enforcement, including its steps to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The hearing will take place against a backdrop of long-term -- and devastating -- drought in the state. As atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations increase, such drought conditions are likely to become more frequent and severe.
The lead witness for the hearing is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott who recently said "It is almost the height of insanity of bureaucracy to have the EPA regulating something that is emitted by all living things.” See Greg Abbott's Hot Air, by Forrest Wilder, in the Texas Observer (17 Jan 2011).
The same subcommittee on 10 March approved a bill -- the "Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011" -- that would strip away the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The bill then went on to the full Energy and Commerce Committee where it was approved on 16 March. During committee consideration of the bill, Democrats repeatedly proposed amendments acknowledging the scientific basis for action on climate change. All were rejected by Republicans on the committee.
The scientific journal Nature responded in an editorial, "Into Ignorance" (published online 16 March):
"...the legislation is fundamentally anti-science, just as the rhetoric that supports it is grounded in wilful ignorance...It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long....[T]o deny that there is reason to be concerned, given the decades of work by countless scientists, is irresponsible."
See Joe Romm's posting at Climate Progress, Nature editorial, “Into ignorance,” slams GOP for “vote to overturn an aspect of climate science” (16 March 2011).
Backdrop for Hearing: Disastrous Drought
The Texas hearing will take place against a backdrop of long-term -- and devastating -- drought in the state. Consider the following:
- The drought conditions have caused billions of dollars of damage in Texas over the last 15 years (see Global Boiling: Population Flight From Growing Desert Of Central Texas, by The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson).
- Both of the Texas Republicans on the subcommittee -- Pete Olson and Joe Barton -- joined other Republican members of the Texas Congressional delegation in a 29 September 2010 letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack saying: “In 2009, Texas suffered from record triple-digit temperatures and experienced a lack of rainfall that devastated crops and rangeland throughout much of Texas. The drought resulted in agricultural losses of $3.6 billion for Texas farmers and ranchers.” They complained in the letter that Vilsack did not declare most Texas counties as eligible for federal disaster assistance.
- After wildfires in late February burned over 88,000 acres and destroyed 58 homes in Western Texas, Texas Forest Service spokesman Lewis Kearney said: "With the drought pattern Texas has had, fire season now is almost running 12 months out of the year. I mean that's not normal." (see TX Forest Service: More than 86,000 Acres Burned Sunday, KTXS News, 28 Feb 2011)
- Nearly 37% of Texas presently is in severe drought and another 17% of the state is in extreme drought (see U.S. Drought Monitor: Texas). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released on 17 March, drought in Texas is forecast to persist or intensify during April-June 2011.
- Many of the state's counties currently are covered by Federal disaster declarations because of drought (see the Federal Emergency Management Agency Web page on Texas Declarations)
Ominously, the Texas State Climatologist, John W. Nielsen-Gammon, says “it is likely that drought frequency and severity will increase in Texas” (from Chapter 2. The Changing Climate of Texas in (The Impact of Global Warming on Texas, 2nd edition, Edited by Jurgen Schmandt, Judith Clarkson and Gerald R. North).
Under the circumstances, the subcommittee should broaden its hearing to discuss the consequences for the Texas economy-- and the welfare of its inhabitants – of doing nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions or to prepare for an era of climate disruption. A good place to start would be the document that underlies EPA greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act, Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act (PDF). Among the EPA’s conclusions:
- “Water resources across large areas of the country are at serious risk from climate change, with effects on water supplies, water quality, and adverse effects from extreme events such as floods and droughts. … The severity of risks and impacts is likely to increase over time with accumulating greenhouse gas concentrations and associated temperature increases and precipitation changes.”
- “The evidence concerning adverse impacts in the areas of water resources and sea level rise and coastal areas provide the clearest and strongest support for an endangerment finding, both for current and future generations... Across the sectors, the potential serious adverse impacts of extreme events, such as wildfires, flooding, drought, and extreme weather conditions provide strong support for such a finding.”
- “The Administrator also notes that scientific literature clearly supports the finding that drought frequency and severity are projected to increase in the future over much of the United States, which will likely reduce crop yields because of excesses or deficits of water.”
- “The Administrator notes the scientific literature and assessment reports provide several lines of evidence that suggest wildfires will likely increase in frequency over the next several decades because of climate warming.”
As Forrest Wilder said on 24 Feb 2011 in the Texas Observer (Rising Seas Could Swamp Some Texas Cities By 2100):
"While Republicans in Congress, led by members of the Texas GOP delegation, work to defund and defang the EPA, climate change – and the science of climate – marches on. The GOP's wilful suspension of trust in what ever-mounting evidence –and dare I say, common sense? –tells us is happening to the planet is not just short-sighted. It's reckless.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee:
- Energy and Power Subcommittee will Hold Field Hearing to Examine Impacts of EPA Regulations on the State of Texas. Press release, 21 March 2011.
- Hearing on “EPA’s Greenhouse Gas and Clean Air Act Regulations: A Focus on Texas’ Economy, Energy Prices and Jobs.” (24 March 2011)
- Texans play lead roles in GOP attack on climate regulations in Congress, Texas Climate News, 22 February 2011.
The Strange Case of Ralph Hall, by Chris Mooney at desmogblog.com.
Global Boiling: Population Flight From Growing Desert Of Central Texas, by The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson.
WWF Climate Change Blog:
- Former EPA Administrator Russell Train Urges Senate to Repulse Attacks on Clean Air Act (16 March 2011).
- EPA Strongly Reaffirms Scientific Basis for Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions (29 July 2010) . See also EPA Rejects Attacks on Climate Science, Reaffirms Scientific Basis for Limiting Greenhouse Gas Pollution, press release (29 July 2010) from WWF; and EPA Correctly Rejects Petitioners Challenging Climate Science in Endangerment Finding, press release (29 July 2010) from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
- Record Rains Pummel Oklahoma City as State's Senator Inhofe Continues to Deny Climate Change Science . 15 June 2010.
- Video and Transcript of Senate Debate on Murkowski Resolution to Veto EPA's Science-Based Climate Change Findings . 06/12/2010.
- Senate Resolution to Strip EPA of Power to Regulate Climate Change Pollution is Defeated . 06/10/2010.
- NY Times Editorial: "Where’s the Senate on This One?" 06/10/2010.
- White House Says Resolution Before the Senate Would Impede Transition to Clean Energy Economy and put Americans at Risk . 06/09/2010.
- Clean Air Act Under Attack . 06/08/2010.
- Former EPA Administrator Russell E. Train Urges Senate to Reject Efforts to Weaken Clean Air Act . 25 May 2010.
- Alaska's Senator Murkowski Fiddles as Alaska Burns. 25 May 2010.
- While Major Floods and a Rapidly Changing Climate Threaten North Dakota, Its Congressman Opposes Curbs on Emissions. 11 March 2010.
- Virginia Researchers and Planners Warn of Climate Change Impacts on Coastal Areas, As Attorney General Challenges the Science . 23 Feb 2010.
- EPA sets timetable for regulating climate pollution . 23 Feb 2010.
- As Weather Extremes Hammer Arkansas Farms, Senator Lincoln Endorses Veto of Finding that Climate Change Threatens Farmers . 27 January 2010.
- “Clean Air Act: Not the ideal solution” . 9 December 2010.
- Texas Congressman in Copenhagen Dismisses Climate Science: "We don’t have an icecap in Texas" (23 Dec 2009)
- U.S. EPA: Greenhouse Gases "Threaten the Public Health and Welfare of the American People." 7 December 2009.
The Project on Climate Science:
- House Committee Fails to Heed Scientific Evidence of Climate Change. 15 March 2011.
- House Committee Ignores Science, Votes to Handcuff EPA (10 March 2011)
- A science-free Congress? 8 March 2011. Re-posted from Politico.
- Statement of the Project on Climate Science On an attack on the scientific basis for the Clean Air Act by the “The Energy Tax Prevention Act.” 3 Feb 2011.
- The Importance of Science in Addressing Climate Change. Open letter to Congress from scientists, 1 February 2011.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
- EPA Rejects Claims of Flawed Climate Science. Press release (29 July 2010)
- Denial of Petitions for Reconsideration of the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act
- Decision document: Pre-publication copy of FR Notice (PDF) (217 pp, 536K)
- Preface (PDF) (7 pp, 39K)
- Volume 1: Climate Science and Data Issues Raised by Petitioners (PDF) (166 pp, 1.2MB)
- Volume 2: Issues Raised by Petitioners on EPA's Use of IPCC (PDF) (84 pp, 368K)
- Volume 3: Process Issues Raised by Petitioners (PDF) (116 pp, 575K)
- Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.
- Petitions for Reconsideration of the Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.