- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Congressional Republicans who have handled environmental policy for the past decade say they worry the new Democratic majority will use its power to pursue a “radical” agenda that will hurt businesses.

Republicans warn of endless hearings on global warming that require sworn testimony, new regulations on businesses, and investigations meant to embarrass the Bush administration.

They say future environmental panels will be “radical” and “extreme,” especially in the Senate with California Democrat Barbara Boxer as the incoming chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

“There’s a lot of genuine concern we’re going to start dragging in oil companies, utilities and manufacturers and start treating them like criminals,” said a Republican staff member of the Senate panel. “She’s pretty out there.”

But Mrs. Boxer and others say outgoing Republican Chairman James M. Inhofe — who calls global warming a “hoax” — is the one with views outside the mainstream.

Mr. Inhofe’s top press aide said at a climate change conference in Kenya this week that global warming skeptics have been “demonized.”

The League of Conservation Voters this year scored Mrs. Boxer at 100 percent and Mr. Inhofe, of Oklahoma, at zero.

“You obviously can’t be any further apart than these two,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV’s legislative director. “We look forward to a vastly different approach where we have scientists rather than fiction writers on the Hill giving testimony.”

Mr. Inhofe last year called “Jurassic Park” author Michael Crichton to testify as an “expert” on global warming. In his book “State of Fear,” Mr. Crichton questioned the legitimacy of climate change theories.

Republicans say they wouldn’t be surprised to see another famous face called to testify on Capitol Hill: former Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat whose summer film “An Inconvenient Truth” explores climate change.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said yesterday that Congress must confront global warming. “It’s a big issue that has been swept under the rug,” he said.

Mrs. Boxer has said global warming “could reshape the world as we know it.”

She isn’t alone — pending in the committee is a bill by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, similar to a California law signed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this summer.

One Republican staffer predicted that global warming hearings “will be more PR than policy” and are designed to play to the Democratic base.

Mrs. Boxer, who has criticized Mr. Inhofe and President Bush as “anti-environment,” in September placed a hold on Mr. Bush’s nomination of Alex A. Beehler to be inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency. The committee will consider his confirmation today.

On the House side, Democrats plan to push hearings on global warming and air quality.

“Drilling in the Arctic is probably even more dead than it was before,” said one Democratic staffer familiar with the workings of the House Resources Committee.

Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican and chairman of that panel, lost his re-election bid last week.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, the committee’s ranking Democrat, is in line to assume the chairmanship.


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