Special Topics in Environmental Management

New House of Representatives, New Chair of the Energy Committee

With the midterm elections switching control of the House to the Democrats, there will also be changes in the leadership of House committees in January 2019. The Committee on Energy and Commerce typically takes the lead on environmental issues in the House, and it is expected that the committee’s current Ranking Member, Democrat Frank Pallone of New Jersey, will move into the chairman seat now occupied by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR).

Capitol building

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In the election, Pallone overwhelmed Republican Richard Pezzullo, capturing 62.7% of the votes to his opponent’s 37.3%. Pallone has served in the House since 1988, and his voting record favors a liberal environmental agenda. In 2017, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) gave Pallone a score of 100%; Pallone has a lifetime LCV score of 96%.

The chairs of House committees wield considerable power. They control a committee’s legislative agenda (that is, select the bills the committee will consider), select members of their party who will serve on the committee, and choose topics for and schedule hearings. Chairs also have power over how hearings are conducted, and skilled chairs can subtly give more time to speakers with whom they agree.

Pallone on Climate

Pallone has been a vocal opponent of most environmental positions and actions taken by the Trump administration. Like many left-leaning legislators, Pallone has been highly critical of the president’s plan to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. In June 2017, Pallone stated:

“A report released by NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and the non-profit Climate Central earlier this year described a climate change nightmare scenario for New Jersey. Rising sea levels could envelop Sea Bright and the other barrier islands. According to that analysis, downtown Brick, much of Keansburg, and the Convention Hall behind me would be overtaken by the sea as well. That’s why President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord is the most dangerous, shortsighted, and negligent decision of his presidency.”

Coal Power

In line with his view on climate, Pallone is also hostile to efforts by the administration to prop up the sagging coal-fired energy sector. In August 2018, Pallone said the administration “has replaced the Clean Power Plan with a Coal Protection Plan that fails to safeguard our families and communities from harmful carbon pollution. Once again, this Administration is choosing polluters’ profits over public health and safety.”

“This is just another in a long line of Trump administration subsidies designed to keep old, dirty, inefficient generators operating well past their design life,” Pallone added. “These fossil fuel plants should have been modernized years ago.”

CWA

Pallone has also fought the administration’s efforts to undo the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule (or waters of the United States (WOTUS)), which broadened the power of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to protect surface waters.

“For more than a generation the [CWA] has protected lakes, streams, and other water systems in New Jersey,” said Pallone. “Unfortunately, President Trump is intent on taking us backwards when it comes to our environment and this includes our clean water sources.”

Energy Development and Cars

Pallone has also voted in favor of providing tax incentives for renewable energy; supported development of domestic biofuel; opposed oil and gas development off the New Jersey coast; voted to end subsidies to oil and gas development; and opposed energy development in the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Regarding the administration’s proposed rollback of federal greenhouse gas (GHG) tailpipe emissions standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks, Pallone said the “decision is terrible for consumers, imperils public health, and pushes us further toward unchecked climate change amidst an unprecedented global heat wave.”

The proposal also takes “direct aim” at the California waiver, said Pallone. The waiver allows that state and other states to set vehicle standards that are more stringent than federal standards.

“President Trump’s rollback will also undermine the competitiveness of our domestic vehicle industry and endangers the hundreds of thousands of jobs associated with car manufacturing,” said Pallone. “The reality is car manufacturing is a highly competitive global industry and today’s rollback will undermine our manufacturers’ ability to compete for consumers around the world.”

There is much more to Pallone’s environmental and energy positions; the LCV provides a record of Pallone’s voting on the relevant legislation at http://scorecard.lcv.org/moc/frank-j-pallone.