Climate Change to Get Congressional Hearing

An oil rig near the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in Los Padres National Forest, Calif.

An oil rig near the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in Los Padres National Forest, Calif. Democrats also hope to use their power in the majority to increase the scrutiny of the way the Bush administration has been running the EPA and Interior Department. David McNew/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption David McNew/Getty Images

Environmental issues likely will get a lot more attention with Democrats in control of the House and Senate. The current chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), calls global warming a "hoax." The senator who plans to take his place, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), says climate change is "the challenge of our generation."

Boxer says she'll fight for a mandatory federal policy to cut climate-change emissions, along the lines of what California has done. California's law requires a reduction of greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who expects to be the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says he'll also work to pass mandatory caps on the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute climate change. But Bingaman takes a less aggressive approach than Boxer does.

Boxer admitted it "isn't going to be a piece of cake" to get such complicated legislation through the Congress, even with Democrats holding the majority in both houses. Controlling greenhouse gases is not at all popular with the auto industry and power sector. The likely chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. John Dingell (MI), has fought against tough fuel-economy standards for vehicles in the past. And the likely chairman of the House Resources Committee, Nick Rahall (D-WV) is from coal country.

Climate change isn't the only environmental priority for Democrats. They also want to do away with some tax cuts and royalty relief granted to oil and gas companies. And they want to undo some exemptions that industry was given from environmental laws. They plan to push laws that promote energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and biodiesel.

Democrats also hope to use their power in the majority to increase the scrutiny of the way the Bush administration has been running the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department. Democrats have accused these agencies of ignoring or manipulating science to benefit industry.

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