Garret Graves is picked as top Republican on House climate change committee
WASHINGTON - Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves says he hopes to broaden the focus of a special House committee on climate change as he becomes its top Republican. Graves, who was named to the panel Thursday (Feb. 28), said the current climate debate centers on only part of the equation.
While protecting the environment is crucial, he said, lawmakers also should also focus on employment opportunities and improving the United States’ competitiveness in the global economy.
“Energy production and consumption, mitigation and adaptation, and shared responsibility must be discussed if we’re truly going to be ‘global’ in this important conversation,” he said, explaining that he favors an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
Graves, 47, is serving his third term representing the Baton Rouge-based 6th Congressional District and formerly chaired the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority under Gov. Bobby Jindal. He was among six Republicans named to the climate panel, which is led by Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.
“At the risk of being self-serving,” Graves said, “there’s no better place on the planet to begin this conversation than coastal Louisiana.”
Other Republicans on the panel are Reps. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Gary Palmer of Alabama, Buddy Carter of Georgia, Carol Miller of West Virginia and Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced the GOP members three weeks after Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped eight Democrats to join Castor.
“The Republican roster is primarily defined by low ratings from environmental groups and big campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry,” E&E News reported. “It also represents a mix of energy interests and could help rally around the Republican claim that natural gas and nuclear are the path forward on climate.”
Griffith and Palmer are members of the House Freedom Caucus, “the hard-right group filled with climate deniers and deep doubts about the regulatory role of EPA,” E&E News said.
While the Democrats’ proposed Green New Deal has attracted far more attention, Pelosi says the climate panel will “spearhead” her party’s work in the House to respond to climate change.
Castor said Thursday she looks forward to working with Graves and other Republicans to "tackle the climate crisis," adding: "Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are urging policy makers to act boldly and build a clean energy economy, and avoid the worst and costly impacts of the changing climate."
She said she and Graves both represent states and districts that are bearing the brunt of climate change. “These impacts do not discriminate based on political party. We don’t have time to waste,” she said.
Sara Chieffo, vice president of government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, called it’s “a dereliction of duty” for Republicans to include on the climate panel lawmakers who have questioned the validity of climate science. While Graves has called failure to acknowledge climate change a mistake for his party, he and other Republicans on the panel "have consistently put industry interests ahead of our kids’ health and our future,' Chieffo said.
Noting that Graves has “seen first-hand the impacts of rising sea levels on coastal Louisiana communities,” Chieffo said she hopes Graves “will heed his own past words and experiences and start supporting solutions to the climate crisis.”
Steve Cochran, associate vice president for coastal protection at the Environmental Defense Fund, told Politico that Graves has been “smart, creative, energetic” at addressing adaptation issues relative to climate change, but it’s not clear what tone he will bring to a panel examining ways to reduce carbon emissions.
“They’re going to need to wrestle successfully with social, economic, political stuff relative to emissions and I don’t think we know how that’s going to come out yet,” Cochran said. “Garret has some experience in getting past ideology to get toward solutions. ... It’s at least encouraging that Garret doesn’t feel the need to debate whether the issue is real.”