Ahead of House Hearing, Committee Climate Deniers Cash In

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As a key House subcommittee prepares to hold a comprehensive hearing pushing back on President Obama’s plans for action against climate change, campaign finance numbers show that denying the science of climate change can pay off—literally—for members of the subcommittee.

The Wednesday hearing, called by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee, will feature Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz as witnesses. If campaign money and past history are any indication, McCarthy and Moniz should prepare to get grilled with criticism of the president’s plans.

Dirty energy interests like oil and gas, coal mining, and electric utilities have sent more than $1.3 million in campaign donations to members of the subcommittee for their 2014 re-election campaigns, according to Public Campaign analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

That money did not get spread evenly. Members who deny the science of climate change took an average of over $72,000 from dirty energy interests, compared to around $19,000, on average, for members who accept the science.

While the energy sector has long favored Republicans, party split doesn’t explain the difference. The three Republicans on the subcommittee who aren’t climate deniers—Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Joseph Pitts (Pa.), and Bob Latta (Ohio)—received an average of about $33,000 from the industry, less than half the amount going to their more outspoken colleagues.

Originally intended to be a blockbuster hearing with the heads of 13 different federal agencies asked to testify, it now appears that McCarthy and Moniz, leaders of the two agencies most closely involved with the president’s climate efforts, will be the only witnesses.

The chair of the subcommittee, Rep. Whitfield has repeatedly voiced his disbelief about the science of climate change and his opposition to regulatory action to reduce climate pollution, while taking in over $115,000 in campaign money from the energy industry in the first six months of 2013. The hearing comes after Whitfield had ignored 27 requests since 2011 from subcommittee Democrats to hold a hearing on climate science.

In a statement released shortly after President Obama’s June 25 speech announcing his climate plan, Whitfield blasted the idea of regulating pollution from new and existing power plants: “The president’s action plan seeks to limit our nation’s fuel choices and make coal-fired electricity generation in this country extinct.”

Similarly, just Friday Whitfield put out a white paper signed by 17 states’ attorneys general outlining the legal case alleging the EPA is overstepping its authority in limiting pollution from power plants.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given this track record, the chair’s top four donors so far for the 2014 cycle are all the PACs of fossil fuel-related companies: PPL Corporation ($10,000), Koch Industries ($8,500), Berkshire Hathaway ($7,500), and Alpha Natural Resources ($7,000).

While a list of “climate deniers” in Congress compiled by ThinkProgress shows that just under 58 percent of Republican senators and representatives don’t accept the science behind climate change, 14 out of 17—82 percent—of Republican members of the Energy and Power subcommittee fall in the denier camp.

Expect colorful quotes from some of the climate deniers on the subcommittee. Here are a few from some of the biggest committee recipients of fossil fuel cash, via ThinkProgress:

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — $142,750: “There was a report a couple of weeks ago that in fact you look at this last year, it was the warmest year in the last decade, I think was the numbers that came out. I don’t — I accept that. I do not say that it is man-made.”

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) — $100,000: Arguing that man-made climate change cannot irrevocably harm the planet: “The earth will end only when God declares it is time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) — $62,600: “Carbon dioxide is a basic building block of our existence. Regulating that is the height of arrogance.”

Let’s not forget, Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) famous apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the harsh scrutiny the company received after the 2010 BP oil spill also came at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. Who knows what we’ll get this time.