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What the House GOP committee chairs plan to do

BY: KELSEY TAMBORRINO | 11/11/2022 05:00 AM EST

Republicans look likely to win a narrow majority in the House, giving them control of the chamber and a fresh opportunity to wield committee gavels to scrutinize President Joe Biden’s energy and climate policies and to police — or undermine — the landmark $370 billion in spending in the Inflation Reduction Act.

In interviews, letters to the administration and public comments, House Republicans have expressed their intentions to conduct robust oversight of the administration’s energy actions and its Cabinet officials, likely ensuring a steady churn of hearings probing Biden officials and the billions of dollars in new climate spending, as Republicans make their own effort to craft legislation to answer Democrats’ party-line climate bill.

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Here’s a rundown of the key Republicans in line for committee gavels and what they’ve said.

HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE: REP. BRUCE WESTERMAN

The Arkansas Republican would be expected to head the committee that will play the leading role in oversight of the Interior Department, the agency that has been at the center of Republican’s criticism for implementing Biden’s pause on oil and gas leasing. Westerman has said he plans to focus on reducing gas prices by building “American energy independence” and preventing rolling blackouts, while ending U.S. reliance on foreign countries.

In his role as as ranking member of the panel, Westerman panned Democrats’ climate legislation, as well as the administration’s tapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bring down gasoline prices. He’s signaled he would look for potential overreach of congressional authority at the Commerce Department, Forest Service and Council for Environmental Quality following the recent Supreme Court decision that curbed agency power at the EPA. And he’s criticized Secretary Deb Haaland’s failure to appear before the committee.

Westerman plans to conduct “robust oversight, something that’s been sorely lacking under the Democrat majority,” his spokesperson, Rebekah Hoshiko, said. “We will be conducting hearings and questioning agency officials in order to fully understand how American taxpayer dollars are being spent.”

Hoshiko added the lawmaker will be working on forestry legislation like his Trillion Trees Act that aims to sequester carbon emissions through promoting reforestation programs. And he will explore solutions to the Western drought and to improve access to public lands.

Westerman has also introduced legislation to expand energy development on federal lands and waters and prevent any president from imposing bans on energy leasing and mineral withdrawals.

HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND REFORM COMMITTEE: REP. JAMES COMER

Kentucky’s Comer has already identified the Biden energy policies his panel plans would scrutinize should he gain the gavel, including Biden’s decision to block the Keystone XL pipeline, the causes of high gas prices and the U.S. reliance of countries like Russia and China for the minerals necessary for green energy technologies.

Those activities will build on the message committee Republicans laid out a 32-page staff report this week that blamed the Biden administration for “discouraging domestic production and energy independence while relying on foreign oil and gas producers” and highlighted “missteps” in Democrats’ own oversight investigations into oil and gas companies. It also called for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and creating a “predictable” five-year leasing plan for new offshore drilling.

Comer has said that Republicans on the committee will dig into the actions by the SEC that he said are “pushing President Biden’s radical climate agenda” through its policies.

Letters from the Oversight committee also signal GOP interest in EPA’s so-called sue and settle practice and its decision to prohibit the use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos. Comer’s also questioned whether Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry was being influenced by outside groups, and whether the administration was considering a ban on oil and gas exports.

HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE: REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS

McMorris Rodgers would become the first woman to helm the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, giving her broad jurisdiction over national energy policy and environmental protection.

One of the Washington Republican’s priorities will be taking a microscope to the massive expansion of the Energy Department’s loan authority in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, which she characterized as “Solyndra on steroids.” Just last month, McMorris Rodgers moved to beef up her team of investigators before she gets the gavel in January.

“The scope and scale of this expanded loan authority, related credit subsidies, and rapid four-year timeline for making commitments, raise questions about increased risks of waste, fraud and abuse, especially if the administration uses the program for its rush-to-green agenda,” wrote McMorris Rodgers, along with other committee Republicans, last month.

She’s also called for increased critical minerals mining and processing to reduce the U.S. reliance on foreign countries for its batteries and renewable energy technologies and may seek to probe “radical” environmental groups who’ve pressed the president to soften on China.

“We cannot allow Europe’s energy crisis to become America’s future,” she wrote in September, blaming the continent’s green policies for its current woes that she says will happen to the U.S. as well. “The results are devastating — life-threatening rolling blackouts, energy rationing, reliance on Chinese supply chains, and record high costs.”

HOUSE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE: REP. FRANK LUCAS

Oklahoma’s Lucas told POLITICO recently he sees oversight of the administration’s implementation of recently passed legislation as a key committee responsibility, and he’s expected to focus on laws like the CHIPS and Science Act. As ranking member of the committee, he’s questioned the Energy Department’s plans to hire 1,000 people for its Clean Energy Corps initiative and the sharp increase in Loan Programs Office funding.

“This unprecedented expansion raises serious concerns about LPO’s ability to dramatically scale up its work in an efficient and responsible manner, given past LPO program problems and failures,” Lucas wrote last month, alongside Energy Subcommittee ranking member Randy Weber (R-Texas).

The panel — which he calls the “committee of the future” — will also likely keep a spotlight on research into technologies like fusion energy and the development of next-generation fuels that were funded under the Democrats’ climate bill.

“It’s not just about tomorrow, or the next day or this winter or next summer — that’s critically important — but the Science committee is about five years, 50 years, 150 years down the road,” he said.

He’s also raised questions about the role of Jane Lubchenco, the deputy director for Climate and Environment at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, who drew a five-year ban from National Academy of Sciences’ publications over a peer-reviewed study controversy in 2021.

HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS: REP. GARRET GRAVES

The future of the select committee remains unclear as conservatives have launched pressure campaigns urging Republicans to scrap it. Even Louisiana’s Graves said in 2019 he initially had little interest in joining it.

While Graves is one of the few Republicans who have said climate change is a problem the government must tackle, he supported an amendment this year to rescind U.S. participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the 30-year-old pact signed by President George H.W. Bush that set the stage for nations to fight climate change.

Under Graves, the committee is likely to echo the six-part strategy Republicans released earlier this year to tame gas prices and tackle climate change. Graves led the task force that laid out Republicans’ energy strategy should Republicans capture the House, describing it to POLITICO at the time as a return to “an emissions reduction trajectory as opposed to what we are seeing under the Biden administration, which is failing every test, whether it be affordability, emissions or security.”

While ranking member of the select committee, Graves has been skeptical of the emissions reduction that will come from the Inflation Reduction Act and has instead called for a diverse portfolio of energy sources.

Like his Republican colleagues, Graves has also publicly criticized the administration’s use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and its energy policies in the face of high energy prices.

Ben Lefebvre and Josh Siegel contributed to this report.

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