House committee hears testimony on climate-change policy

KU Statehouse Wire Service

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

Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona

Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona

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 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 Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, argued 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.”

Sedgwick County Commission Richard Ranzau and Edward Cross, president of the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association 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 United States 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.

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.

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 that peer-reviewed scientific literature says there is uncertainty about climate change, but it is clear that 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 that 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,” said Lynn Hunter, a health teacher from Winfield.

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.

Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, and Rep. 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?” asked Menghini. “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 enact. 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.”