US House dems push climate change into spotlight

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., is likely to be chairman of House Resources if Democrats win the House in November. Photo by Liz Ruskin.

The U.S. House hasn’t paid much attention to climate change in nearly a decade. But that streak came to an end Wednesday with two simultaneous hearings. Democrats are showing that things are different now that they hold the gavels.

The new chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Raul Grijalva, has declared that February is climate change month, and that was the topic of his very first hearing.

“Today we turn the page of this committee from climate change denial to climate action,” the Arizona Democrat declared.

Grijalva cited example after example to show that change is already underway, and he gave a nod to Alaska, the state that’s seen the most warming.

“The coast of Alaska is literally disappearing into the ocean,” he said. “Indigenous villages are already having to relocate. We will see more climate refugees as time goes on.”

The committee isn’t considering a specific bill yet. The hearing was more of an overview.

“Congratulations, Mr. Grijalva on your first full committee chairing,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who was the chairman of the committee until just a few weeks ago. Under his leadership, the committee saw hearings of a different type. One was titled “Assessing Innovative and Alternative Uses of Coal.” Another was called  “The Weaponization of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Implications of Environmental Lawfare.”

Bishop said Grijalva was doing it all wrong.

“I know you have made February as climate change month. I appreciate that you picked the shortest month of the year to do that,” Bishop said.  “Of course, it also happens to be Black History Month, which I wish we could deal with.”

Bishop named a series of African-American historic sites that need maintenance, a subject he suggested would be more appropriate for the committee, whose purview includes federal lands and monuments.

“That’s our jurisdiction,” Bishop said. “Talking about those kinds of things would be very positive.”

Bishop said he wonders if the Democrats are going to propose solutions, or just hold hearings so reporters can write “cute stories.”

Alaska Congressman Don Young is the most senior member of the House Natural Resources committee and a former chairman. He skipped the hearing. Young’s spokesman said the hearing was scheduled on short notice and Young had a scheduling conflict.