Conservatives squabble ahead of hearing on GOP bill

As originally published in E&E News.

By: Nick Sobczyk

The House Natural Resources Committee will examine two climate change bills, including a Republican-backed measure that’s taken heat from influential conservative groups.

The panel will hold a legislative hearing Wednesday on a bill from Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) to achieve net-zero emissions on public lands, as well as Rep. Bruce Westerman’s “Trillion Trees Act,” H.R. 5859.

The Arkansas Republican introduced the legislation earlier this month as part of a package of GOP climate change bills, an effort led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

It got plenty of media attention and encouragement from moderate GOP groups, which saw the legislative slate as a sign the party is finally thinking seriously about climate change amid polls that show voters increasingly want the federal government to deal with the issue (E&E Daily, Feb. 13).

In addition to Westerman’s bill, which would aim to sequester carbon by aligning the U.S. with the international Trillion Trees initiative, Republicans rolled out various new research authorizations and an extension of the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture.

But the influential conservative organization Club for Growth immediately blasted the package, calling it “liberal environmental policies” and threatening to withhold support from any Republican who backed it.

The group is now readying its own platform of climate policies based on “free market principles,” the Washington Examiner reported last week, though it’s not clear what exactly that will look like.

“Looking at Club for Growth’s history, we’re not going to see large spending, we’re not going to see subsidies or tax credits,” said Heather Reams, executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a conservative clean energy group that has backed McCarthy’s effort.

“I can imagine they have a lot to contribute in terms of deregulation, so I’d like to see where they have been able to dig in and we can look to expand all energy, certainly clean energy.”

There’s certainly risk that the club’s harsh words for McCarthy could have a “chilling effect” on Republicans looking to come out on climate, but Reams said it’s ultimately a positive to have a “competition of ideas” on the right.

Other right-leaning organizations that have long opposed climate policy homed in on Westerman’s bill, with Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute calling it “particularly ill considered.”

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