Kristina Baum (EPW) – 202.224.6176

Donelle Harder (EPW) – 202.224.4721

Inhofe Releases Letters, Statement on EPA, CEQ’s Decline to Participate in Climate Hearing

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, sent letters today requesting the participation of representatives from the State Department, Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a full committee hearing at 2:45 PM ET on Tues., Oct. 20. to conduct oversight of the Obama administration’s ongoing international climate negotiations and examine the role that domestic environmental policies play to the final agreement expected later this year.

The EPW Majority office had been working with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Majority on a joint full or subcommittee hearing.  To date, EPA and CEQ have declined the two agencies’ participation.

“The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have made it extremely difficult to provide necessary and appropriate Congressional oversight to the president’s international climate negotiations,” said Inhofe. "I’m pleased that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will now be holding this important oversight hearing with the president’s chief climate negotiator.  With the COP21 in Paris only a little over a month, Senators will be able to ask the State Department about the terms of any agreement, how domestic policies are envisioned to play into any agreement, where the 26-28 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions even come from, and how would an agreement be binding on the United States.”

However, Inhofe also said, “The EPW Committee has a strong record dating back to the 90’s of hosting witnesses from the State Department, CEQ, and EPA as well as other federal departments such as the Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Council of Economic Advisors.  State Department witnesses had previously testified at the invitation of Chairman John Chafee concerning climate change and proposed U.S. commitments toward the Kyoto Protocol.  State Department witnesses have testified twice before the EPW Committee in 2002 concerning implementing legislation of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and in a joint hearing with the Foreign Relations Committee to review the implementation of environmental treaties.  In 2004, the State Department testified before the EPW Committee concerning the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.  In 2005, the State Department testified before the EPW Committee concerning the status of international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  I’m disappointed that Senate Democrat leaders are refusing to hold a joint hearing between the two relevant committees and refusing to sign the hearing invitation letters to witnesses. I look forward to continuing to work toward inviting the State Department to the EPW Committee to testify as they have done many times in the past.”

The Oct. 20 hearing was originally notified last week in the Senate as a joint EPW Committee hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC). SFRC Democrats objected to a joint hearing, which led to Inhofe’s decision to proceed as a full EPW committee hearing. Once this change was made, the State Department informed the committee’s majority office that it could no longer confirm the participation of Todd Stern, special envoy for Climate Change at the State Department, unless EPA or CEQ would also be in attendance as witnesses. Inhofe’s letter to Stern on Thursday highlights the State Department’s participation since the late 1990’s in EPW Committee hearings with and without EPA and CEQ present.

EPA and CEQ, to date, have claimed to not have witnesses available who can testify to the subject matter.  In the invitation letters sent Thursday to the agencies, Inhofe highlights instances where the president has ordered both EPA and CEQ to take action as part of the president’s international commitment to reduce the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent. Inhofe also requests in the letters that both agencies provide a list of names for all agency staff that plan to attend the COP21 in Paris and those who have attended previous international meetings related to the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The invite letter sent to CEQ, can be read here.

The invite letter sent to EPA, can be read here.

The invite letter sent to the State Department, can be read here.

The letter predating the invitations, from EPA to Inhofe can be read here.