A Big Win for Climate Change Denial: Republicans to Target EPA Regulations After Taking Senate
With their newfound control of both houses of Congress, the Republican agenda includes a rollback of environmental regulations, including President Obama’s new rules limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. We discuss this prospect with Lee Fang, a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, and blogger about money and politics at the the Republic Report. "This Republican majority owes its fortunes to a small number of fossil companies who were very big campaign spenders," Fang says. "And the next Congress will see some of the most avowed climate change deniers taking control of key congressional committees in the Senate and in the House."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. And this is the day after—I’m Amy Goodman—the day after the midterm elections of 2014 that cost $4 billion. Our guest now is Lee Fang, reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, blogs about money in politics at the Republic Report. He did a recent investigation for The Nation headlined "Mitch McConnell’s Freighted Ties to a Shadowy Shipping Company." He has also blogged about how if the GOP takes the Senate, climate change deniers will control key committees.
Why don’t we start there, then go back to Mitch McConnell, Lee Fang? Talk about what the Republican Senate will look like when it comes to the leadership of the committees. Among those who won last night was Oklahoma Senator Inhofe.
LEE FANG: Hi, Amy. Good morning. This Republican majority owes its fortunes to a small number of fossil fuel companies. The conservative Koch brothers, several coal companies, natural gas companies were very big campaign spenders. And in the next Congress, we’ll see some of the most avowed climate change deniers taking control of key congressional committees in the Senate and in the House. In the Senate, Senator Jim Inhofe, the most outspoken critic of climate change science, will take control of the Environment Committee. Senator Ron Johnson, another outspoken critic of climate change science, will take control of the Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee. It’s possible that Senator Ted Cruz, yet another climate change skeptic, will control the Science Subcommittee within the Commerce Committee. That’s the committee that controls federal science research.
And it’s likely that these fossil fuel companies spent big on this election because they’re looking for something in return, that being pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back or delay its proposed rules on carbon emissions. There are rules that are coming up that deal with existing coal-fired power plants. These are power plants that were built in the '40s, ’50s and ’60s, with very outdated technology, that are significant drivers of carbon emissions. The Obama administration has proposed these rules, and it's likely that the new Republican Congress will pressure the EPA to delay them or maybe even attach a budget rider that says that the EPA will not be funded to carry out these rules. That could set the stage for another government shutdown, like the similar dynamic that happened last year when a budget rider was attached attempting to defund the Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare."
As part of a broader dynamic, though, the House Science Committee in the last Congress, for one of the very first times in history, began subpoenaing government scientists, attempting to harass them and then pressure them to back away from air pollution rules. With Republicans now in control of the Senate, we might see a similar dynamic on the Senate side. Already, just in the last two months, we’ve seen Senate Republicans sending letters to environmental groups, pressuring them, basically signaling they’d like to open new investigations into groups like the NRDC, the National Wildlife Foundation, the American Lung Association, Greenpeace. These environmental groups are now going to be under the gun as Republicans try all the different avenues for influencing environmental policy.
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