McKinley Would Bar Energy Department from Considering Climate Change

Charleston Gazette
13 July 2014
By David Gutman, Staff writer

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers could not carry out policies related to climate change and climate science under an amendment proposed by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and passed Thursday night by the U.S. House of Representatives.

McKinley’s amendment, which passed with almost exclusively Republican votes, would prohibit the two agencies from using funds “to design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.”

Those “specified assessments” include the two most comprehensive reports on climate change, the U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment, five years in the making, and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The amendment would prohibit the agencies from participating in future versions of those reports and also prohibit them from acting on any of the recommendations contained in those reports.

The amendment was added to a $34 billion appropriations bill that would fund the two agencies, as well as parts of the Department of the Interior and other agencies. It also would apply to $80 million in funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, which funds projects to improve job opportunities and infrastructure in the region.

“Spending precious resources to pursue a dubious climate change agenda compromises our clean-energy research and America’s infrastructure,” McKinley said on the House floor. “Congress should not be spending money pursuing ideologically driven experiments.”

Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said it disregards the research of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists.

“The Republicans, in general, don’t seem to trust the scientists,” Kaptur said. “This amendment requires the Department of Energy to assume that carbon pollution isn’t harmful and that climate change won’t cost a thing. That’s nothing but a fantasy.”

Parts of the missions of the Department of Energy and the Corps of Engineers would seem to be inextricable from climate change and climate science. For instance, the bill authorizes $1.7 billion for the Corps of Engineers to spend on river and harbor construction, flood- and storm-damage reduction and shore protection.

Meanwhile, the National Climate Assessment reports that the global sea level has risen by eight inches since 1880 and is projected to rise another one to four feet by 2100. The global sea level rose about twice as fast in the years since 1992 as it did in the previous century, the report said.

The Department of Energy also is heavily involved with efforts to address climate change.

“We develop new technologies and reduce the costs of renewables, new nuclear, environmental protection in natural gas production, carbon capture and sequestration, really across the board,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a May teleconference, describing his agency’s actions on climate change.

“Addressing the effects of climate change is a top priority of the Energy Department,” the agency’s website says. “As global temperature rise, wildfires, drought and high electricity demand put stress on the nation’s energy infrastructure. And severe weather — the leading cause of power outages and fuel supply disruption in the United States — is projected to worsen.”

McKinley and Moniz sparred at a House hearing last fall after the congressman expressed doubt in widely agreed upon facets of climate science.

Despite passing the House, the bill, and McKinley’s amendment, are very unlikely to become law. The Democratic-controlled Senate has not yet passed any appropriations bills this year, but it is almost sure not to take up the House version of the bill. The bill also faces a veto threat from the White House. This is not McKinley’s first attempt to prevent federal agencies from addressing climate change.

In May, a McKinley-sponsored amendment was added to the funding bill for the Department of Defense that would prevent that agency from spending money on climate change initiatives.

Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted for both of McKinley’s amendments, limiting the agencies’ ability to address climate change.

A Capito spokeswoman emailed a statement in support of the funding bill but did not address the amendment limiting agencies’ ability to address climate change.

Rahall was one of only five Democrats to support the amendment.

Asked why the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers should not be able to consider climate change, Rahall emailed a statement saying that he supported the amendment to help block actions by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rahall did not respond when asked what the amendment had to do with the EPA.

Reach David Gutman at or 304-348-5119.