Monday, December 22, 2014

Political climate heats up as House takes on Obama plan

By HANNAH WISE, KU Statehouse Wire Service | 2/19/2014

TOPEKA — The Kansas House Committee on Energy and Environment heard testimony last week on a non-binding resolution to oppose President Obama’s recent plan to curb the effects of climate change. 

The president’s Climate Action Plan from June 2013 calls for the United States, by 2020, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels. It is up to the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt and enforce the plan.

House Resolution 6043 asserts the president’s plan is based on assumptions, incorrect models and a lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence. It also states that the Earth’s climate is not influenced by greenhouse gas emissions from humans, but rather it is following a natural cycle that has been previously observed for thousands of years.

Supporters of the resolution, including state Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, argued that the climate change debate is one rooted in politics rather than science. 

“The lack of real debate and the lack of real science, together with the refusal by the alarmists to even recognize the existence of any credible debate, cause me to conclude that there is only one logical explanation for what is occurring,” Knox said. “This is all political.” 

Richard Ranzau, Sedgwick County commissioner, and Edward Cross, Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association president, also spoke in support of the resolution. 

During his testimony, Cross commended Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s recent submission of an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals case American Farm Bureau Federation v. Environmental Protection Agency. Schmidt’s brief is in support of the plaintiff, the American Farm Bureau. 

Cross said the lawsuit shows that states are not in support of increased regulation by the federal government, and Obama’s plan would infringe upon state sovereignty. 

State Rep. Dennis Hedke, R-Wichita, also testified in support of the resolution. Hedke is the chairman of the Committee on Energy and Environment. He argued that the Earth is in “an interglacial period of warming” and that it is not influenced by actions of humans.

State Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, questioned the scientific accuracy of evidence presented by Hedke and called for Chuck Rice, a scientist from Kansas State University, to testify. Rice said peer-reviewed scientific literature says there is uncertainty about climate change, but it is clear there is a heat build-up happening in the deep ocean and the heat has the potential to transition into the atmosphere. 

Opponents of the resolution argued the Legislature should be discussing solutions to climate change issues, rather than spending time to pass a non-binding resolution. 

“It is embarrassing that Kansas is still fighting the climate change battle instead of progressing to solutions,” Lynn Hunter, a Winfield health teacher, said. 

Rabbi Moti Rieber, coordinator for Kansas Interfaith Power & Light, and Zach Pistora, a lobbyist for the Kansas Sierra Club, both strongly opposed the resolution. They echoed statements by Hunter that by supporting the resolution, Kansas would be ignoring the climate change issue. 

“Putting your fingers in your ears and humming is not an option,” Rieber said. 

State Reps. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, and Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, questioned why the committee was considering the resolution at all. 

“Do you really think that passing this achieves any practical purpose?” Menghini asked. “I can’t help but feel like we are spinning our wheels here.”

Jennings, on the other hand, said that while he believes that the EPA regulations at the state level are “virtually impossible” to enforce, he also expressed concerns about the committee making a decision without clear facts. 

“I do not wish to make a statement that is not based on fact,” Jennings said. “There are clearly parts of this which are based in dispute.”

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