Politics & Government

As president seeks to advance environmental agenda, new oversight subcommittee will be watching closely

A great egret flies above a pond near the Delaware waterway known as Taylors Gut on July 22, 2014. The pond is southeast of a complex of wetland formations called Delmarva bays that are part of a federal proposal to update the Clean Water Act. (Chris Adams/McClatchy)
A great egret flies above a pond near the Delaware waterway known as Taylors Gut on July 22, 2014. The pond is southeast of a complex of wetland formations called Delmarva bays that are part of a federal proposal to update the Clean Water Act. (Chris Adams/McClatchy) McClatchy

In what is likely to be a pivotal year for President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda, the U.S. House has a new subcommittee well-positioned to explore the administration’s Environmental Protection Agency and its interaction with energy policy.

The subcommittee will be part of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, newly chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah.

The subcommittee will be led by Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming, and will have a broad mandate to explore issues related to the Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On the environmental front, the White House is pushing hard on a number of fronts related to the president’s climate change agenda and other pivotal issues. It has a major initiative to cut carbon pollution at the nation’s power plants, a plan to cut ozone in the air and another to clarify which waterways are and aren’t covered by the Clean Water Act.

All three issues are in the midst of the government rulemaking process, and the EPA’s proposed regulations were met with strong resistance from industrial and agricultural groups, as well as Republican lawmakers. Democrats and environmental interests have generally supported the rules – even urging the EPA to go further.

But last year was essentially a stalemate, as action in the Republican-controlled House to rein in the EPA stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate. With Republicans now taking control of both chambers, the EPA is expected to come under increasing assault – even as the president seeks to use the environment as a way to help cement his legacy.

Incoming subcommittee chair Lummis was elected to the House in 2008 and has a background that includes ranching, animal science, biology and the law. Her Web site says she is “a staunch advocate for fiscal responsibility, limiting the size and scope of the federal government and developing our nation’s domestic energy capabilities.”

When it comes to the environment, she called for a balanced approach: “I do not believe in heavy-handed mandates sent down from faceless bureaucracies, or that achieving environmental perfection at the cost of our economic freedom is a prudent approach,” she says on her Web site. “I do believe in the power of human ingenuity to tackle these issues reasonably, and will continue to work for balance in our environmental policies.”

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