On March 15 the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on a mostly party-line 34-19 vote, approved a bill to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases pursuant to the agency’s scientifically based Endangerment Finding under the Clean Air Act. Votes on proposed amendments during the mark-up revealed the extent to which climate science denialism has become a partisan litmus test in Congress. Republican members voted unanimously against amendments that would have accepted the basic scientific finding that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and that anthropogenic emissions are the root cause of recently observed climate change.

H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, passed and was reported by the committee by a vote of 34-19. All 31 Republicans voted for the bill, along with 3 of 22 Democrats – Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike Ross (Arkansas), and John Barrow (Georgia).

News stories on the committee’s action:

New York Times (“House Panel Votes to Limit E.P.A. Power”)

Politico (“GOP rejects EPA’s climate finding”)

Bloomberg (“House Panel Rejects Measure Backing U.S. EPA’s Finding on Climate Change”)

The House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican website  has vote totals, Republican prepared remarks, and archived webcast of the mark-up.

The committee’s Democratic website  has more detail on amendments and roll call votes.

During the March 15 mark-up session, Democratic members of the committee proposed a number of amendments that were not accepted. Among the proposed amendments were the following, which shed light on whether members accept or deny core conclusions of mainstream climate science.

Some Republican members have contended that the issue with H.R. 910 and blocking EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions is not about climate science but rather is just an attempt to restrain overreach by ‘unelected bureaucrats’, accompanied by now-typical and typically misleading rhetoric about protecting jobs. However, what are we to make of their votes on these amendments? —

An amendment proposed by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Henry Waxman (California), stated that  Congress accepts the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that ‘‘Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.’’ The amendment was defeated on a party line vote of 20-31.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) stated that Congress accepts the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that the ‘‘scientific evidence is compelling’’ that elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from anthropogenic emissions ‘‘are the root cause of recently observed climate change’’. The amendment was defeated on a party line vote of 21-30.

The committee adopted a “sense of Congress” amendment by Rep. Matheson that states “there is established scientific concern over warming of the climate system,” that “addresing climate change is an international issue,” that “the United States has a role to play in resolving global climate change matters on an international basis,” and that “Congress should develop a policy that addresses this role.” The amendment does not say anything about climate change being related to human activity. It is doubtless inconsequential and was adopted by voice vote.

The next step is for the bill to be debated and voted on the House floor — probably in April.  How the Senate will address this issue remains uncertain.

Good commentary:

Climate Progress (Anti-science House Republicans reject amendment that says climate change is occurring”)

Wonk Room (“Committee From Koch Votes to Deny Climate Change”). Wonk Room notes that the three Democrats who joined Republicans in voting for the bill have all received campaign contributions from Koch Industries.

Grist, David Doniger of NRDC (“Fred Upton’s EPA-blocking bill will put more of your money in oil industry pockets”)

Grist, David Roberts (“Politifact finds Republican claim to be false; Republicans don’t give a sh*t”).

For more background, see earlier CSW posts:

Upcoming House committee vote on bill to kill EPA regulation of greenhouse gases

House subcommittee plans March 10 vote to block EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions

Will Obama stand up under pressure on EPA regulation of greenhouse gases?

MacCracken federal court Declaration defending EPA Endangerment Finding

EPA denies all petitions for reconsideration of its Endangerment Finding on greenhouse gases

History is made as US EPA finds heat-trapping gases endanger human health and welfare

Koch Industries multibillionaire Koch brothers bankroll attacks on climate change science and policy