A panel of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee held an odd hearing today, which was liveblogged by ScienceInsider. The topic was climate science, but the reason for the hearing was a legislative proposal, called House Resolution 910. It would remove the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) authority to regulate greenhouse gases while systematically rolling back a series of steps that EPA has already taken to do so.
The 3-hour hearing was reminiscent of those held repeatedly by Democrats during the previous Congress, when they were in the majority. Top climate scientists (including Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego) laid out the basic tenets of climate science while scientists who disagreed with that consensus challenged them. Few of the points raised or questions asked were surprising or revealed any new information.
The hearing barely touched on the underlying issue, namely, is it appropriate for Congress to involve itself so deeply into the working of a regulatory agency? Are there precedents? And what are the legal and governance implications of curtailing an agency's authority in this way?
Instead of tackling those issues, members engaged in what Roger Pielke Jr. had predicted would be "a show hearing using climate scientists as props." Apart from some dubious statements on the science by witnesses and lawmakers that were exposed by participants in the liveblog, the only real news to come out of it was that Representative Ed Whitfield (RKY), chair of the energy and power subcommittee, plans to mark up the bill on Thursday.