U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing recap

From KOAA/Associated Press:

The committee held a hearing at the University of Colorado. Earlier this week, committee members toured three federal laboratories in Boulder that address climate issues: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Polis said climate change is hurting Colorado’s water supply and environment and its agricultural and recreation industries.

He told the committee Colorado will help retrain workers at coal-fired power plants who lose their jobs as the state pushes utilities to switch to renewable power.

From Westword (Chase Woodruff):

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis held its first field hearing in Boulder today, August 1, inviting state and local leaders from across Colorado to testify about the state’s efforts to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat who represents Boulder in Congress, was among the members selected for the committee when it was established by House Democrats earlier this year.

“I can think of no better place than Boulder, Colorado, and Colorado as a state, to host this first field hearing,” said Neguse. “It’s the epicenter of climate research in the United States.”

[…]

“As the committee works [on a] national climate action plan, we need to build on what is working in states and communities across this great country,” said committee chair Representative Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Florida, in opening remarks at the August 1 hearing, which was held in the Wittemyer Courtroom at the University of Colorado School of Law.

Governor Jared Polis, who made a plan to achieve a 100 percent renewable electric grid by 2040 a centerpiece of his 2018 campaign, spoke to the committee about Colorado’s efforts to fight climate change, which he called “an existential threat to our security, our health, our economy, our public lands and ecosystems, and our very way of life.”

Under Polis, Colorado has enshrined into law a series of ambitious greenhouse gas emissions goals, including a 50 percent cut by 2030, and enacted a slate of new legislative and regulatory measures to help achieve them. In contrast to sweeping progressive proposals like the Green New Deal and the actions taken by other governments around the world, Colorado’s approach has emphasized private-sector innovation and a market-based transition to clean energy rather than new mandates or substantial increases in public investment.

“We’ve taken significant strides during my first seven months in office to put us on the path to achieving this bold goal,” said Polis. “But the truth is that through price reductions and technological advances, the shift to renewable energy is already happening.”

For some, the shift isn’t happening fast enough. Climate activists rallied outside CU’s Wolf Law Building before the hearing began, urging policymakers at both the state and federal levels to adopt a more aggressive stance. Members of environmental groups like Extinction Rebellion, Food & Water Watch and 350 Colorado demonstrated in support of measures like a national declaration of “climate emergency,” restrictions on new fossil fuel development and a more aggressive timeline for reducing emissions…

In addition to Polis, the committee heard from a panel of local elected officials and energy experts that included Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones, Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell and Chris Wright, the CEO of Denver-based Liberty Oilfield Services. Wright, who was the only witness invited by the committee’s Republican members, dismissed the notion that Colorado’s oil and gas industry is responsible for declining air quality along the Front Range…

“I would implore you to read the data, to talk to people in the communities that are being impacted here in Boulder County and elsewhere across the state,” Neguse said. “It is a very real, visceral issue for them.”

The Climate Crisis committee will continue to hold hearings through the end of next year, and is tasked with making recommendations to permanent House committees on potential new legislation to more effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change…

Neguse, a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, spoke to some of the activists before the hearing began, and told them he agrees that action to stop climate change should include restrictions on new fossil-fuel development.

“That is part of the conversation around the transition,” Neguse said. “You get there by doing both, by transitioning off of fossil fuels and by increasing investments in renewables.”

As the hearing wrapped up, Castor emphasized the need for strong federal climate policy to support the work being done in Colorado and other states.

Spring Creek Coal Mine. Photo credit: Cloud Peak Energy

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