Congressional approval ratings are at an all time low of seven percent according to a Gallup poll released Thursday, and if they fall much lower they will approach the same percentage — three — of scientists who don’t believe that humans are causing climate change.
In the first House hearing about the EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide regulations for existing power plants, the divisive and misleading tactics that have sunk Congress so low were on full display. Janet McCabe, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, was the sole witness. She managed to take the thinly veiled political rhetoric so common in Congress and turn it into an educational discussion about the details of the proposal during the Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing.
Given the opportunity to question McCabe about the details of EPA’s power plant proposal and its effect on jobs, the economy, and the environment, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) called it “an exercise in political arrogance,” saying that everyone in the room is “creating carbon dioxide as they breathe” and that he doesn’t believe that carbon dioxide is a pollution. The oil and gas industry and electric utilities are the top two industry contributors to Barton, totaling nearly $3.4 million.
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said that the projections the EPA is making that utility bills will actually be eight percent lower by 2030 and that states will have all the flexibility they need remind him of promises Obama made during the healthcare debate. Cassidy is among the Top 20 recipients of Koch Industries contributions so far in 2014.
“I know a family whose cost of food, gas and insurance have all gone up,” said Cassidy. “They’ve been denied the economic benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline — oil which is now being shipped to China and creating Chinese jobs. This is just going to be a bullseye on other families’ abilities to do things like keep their homes. Sorry if I seem so agitated, I just keep on thinking about that family losing their home.”
It has been shown that the notion that poor people will suffer because of the proposal is unsupported and that the carbon regulations will not kill jobs or drag down the economy. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan aims to cut carbon emissions by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
McCabe responded thoughtfully to the range of leading questions and accusations lobbed at her, and frequently pivoted back to the public health benefits and extreme flexibility of the proposal. Republican lawmakers tried to frame the EPA’s proposal an an energy plan designed to raise electricity prices and destroy the coal industry. McCabe repeatedly countered that it’s an emissions plan that states are encouraged to adapt to in the most accommodating ways possible to meet their best interests.
Fourteen out of seventeen Republican subcommittee members are on the record denying the reality of human-induced climate change. In total, these members have taken nearly $9 million in career dirty energy contributions, compared to $2.2 million for the remaining members of the committee, according to a CAP Action analysis. All Republicans on the committee have taken $792,350 in career contributions from Koch Industries, while Democrats have taken $48,750.
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) told McCabe that people back home are asking “why does the EPA that works for me want to kill my job? Why does the EPA that works for me want to kill my family? Those questions that can’t be answered here will be answered in November.”
Again, congressional approval ratings are at an all-time low of 7 percent, according to a poll released Thursday.
Tiffany Germain, Research Manager for the CAP Action War Room, contributed research to this post.