Climate Change, Energy & Environment - Meet the Freshmen

Climate Change, Energy & Environment

Should Republicans win the House majority, the party could put Democrats’ energy and climate policies under intense scrutiny – even as obstacles remain to advancing major Republican goals in that space.

In recent comments to Punchbowl News about funding for the war in Ukraine, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-20) previewed what GOP control might look like. McCarthy wasn’t walking away from continued support for the war in Ukraine; instead, he suggested increased oversight on Congressional spending will be a reality – meaning a potential headache for the Biden administration in a Republican-controlled 118th Congress.[1]

Although President Biden could veto any Republican-sponsored bills that threaten his agenda, tough oversight from a Republican majority could also target implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, with its billions in energy and climate spending. A Republican-led House could also ratchet up scrutiny of federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency at a time when the Biden administration is seeking to complete a suite of regulations to fulfill its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

As Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) told The Washington Post, “I’m not doing anything to raise the cost of living for American families … [I want to address climate change, but] you can’t do it where you’re killing jobs.”[2]

It’s a message supported by polling that shows Republican voters are more concerned with jobs than the environment: just 10% of Republican and Republican-leaning independents are deeply concerned with addressing climate change, while a majority thought President Biden’s ambitious plans to curb climate change would hurt the economy.[3]

There has been a push on the part of Republicans to deemphasize “climate” from talks of energy, which fueled speculation about the fate of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Long thought to be the first casualty of a new GOP majority, according to reporting by The Washington Post, some Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA-06), who could become chair of the committee, have privately urged McCarthy to keep the panel.[4]

If the panel does exist in the new Congress, it could look dramatically different and focus, in part, on boosting America’s oil and gas production – a critical priority of McCarthy’s “Commitment to America” agenda. Specifically, McCarthy wants to increase domestic fossil fuel production and boost exports of US liquefied natural gas.[5] In fact, the pace of natural gas infrastructure approvals by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission already has come under fire from Republican lawmakers. That barrage could intensify if Rep. Kathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05) takes the helm at the House Energy & Commerce Committee, a panel with a long history of hounding the opposing administration.

If Republicans control Congress, they also vow to scrutinize a wide sweep of Democrats’ climate and energy policies in the past two years, with a particular focus on the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law, two pieces of legislation that made huge federal investments in clean energy.

House Republican leaders are also expected to include as part of their agenda for the next Congress a pledge to cancel “Build Back Better,” the name for an earlier version of the massive legislative package. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09), current ranking member of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce’s Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee, has been quoted as saying, “Oversight of the billions of dollars in federal funds for energy and environmental provisions that have been doled out over the last two years should be a critical component of congressional energy oversight in the 118th Congress.”[6]

Other targets could include the Interior Department’s five-year oil and gas leasing plan and the Securities & Exchange Commission’s climate disclosure rules for public companies. Even an independent agency such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has been investigating how climate risk should affect its role overseeing derivatives markets, as the Biden administration has pursued a whole-of-government approach to addressing climate.

In addition to probing the recently passed laws, oversight of domestic energy resources, grid and pipeline security, the future of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency could be a focus for a new GOP majority.


[1] “McCarthy on debt limit, immigration and Ukraine,” Punchbowl News, October 18, 2022, available at https://punchbowl.news/archive/101822-punchbowl-news-am/.

[2] Lisa Friedman & Coral Davenport, “Amid Extreme Weather, a Shift Among Republicans on Climate Change,” New York Times, August 13, 2021, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/13/climate/republicans-climate-change.html.

[3] Alec Tyson, Brian Kennedy & Cary Funk, “Gen Z, Millennials Stand Out for Climate Change Activism, Social Media Engagement With Issue,” Pew Research Center, May 26, 2021, available at https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/05/26/gen-z-millennials-stand-out-for-climate-change-activism-social-media-engagement-with-issue/.

[4] Maxine Joselow & Vanessa Montalbano, “Kevin McCarthy weighs future of special committee on climate change,” Washington Post, October 18, 2022, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/18/kevin-mccarthy-weighs-future-special-committee-climate-change/.

[5] “The Republican Commitment to America,” Office of the Republican Leader, accessed November 9, 2022, available at https://www.republicanleader.gov/commitment/.

[6] “APPEC,” S&P Global Commodity Insights, accessed November 9, 2022, available at https://www.spglobal.com/commodityinsights/en/market-insights/topics/appec.

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