Washington, D.C., April 2, 2008- U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, made the following statement during today’s business meeting on Environmental Protection Agency documents:
“Mr. Chairman, let me first state that I support this select committee resolution, and I thank the chair for working with me to refine the resolution’s language. I agree that the documents which the select committee is seeking from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are within our authority and that the Agency has no legal basis to deny providing us with the documents, short of asserting executive privilege, which they have not done.
“However, I do want to take a few minutes to share some of my other thoughts, and concerns, about the use of these subpoenas. Generally, I believe subpoenas should be rarely used. In the ten years during which I chaired two standing committees of the House – the Committee on Science during the last four years of the Clinton Administration and the Committee on the Judiciary during the first six years of the Bush Administration – I never issued a subpoena. I did on occasion remind representatives of those two administrations that the Congress has constitutional responsibilities with respect to oversight of the executive branch. And I used that leverage to negotiate meaningful testimony and documentation to allow my committees to discharge our oversight obligations. However, I believe that the actual use of subpoenas can and should be a rarely used oversight device.
“The documents this subpoena seeks from the EPA are drafts and part of an ongoing Supreme Court-mandated regulatory process. I am always hesitant about Congress intervening in a rulemaking process. If we know better than the regulatory agency what the answer is, then we should pass legislation to mandate that answer. Administrator Johnson testified before us three weeks ago that, as a result of enactment of last December’s Energy Independence and Security Act, he was re-examining from a broader perspective both the Clean Air Act and other authorities to regulate greenhouse gases. Since that hearing, he has announced his intention to use an advance notice of proposed rulemaking as the agency considers the specific effects of climate change and potential regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary and mobile sources. That leaves me to wonder what the exact value of these documents, which were part of the preliminary rulemaking, are to us now. Except as historical documents showing where the Agency’s preliminary thinking was going last year, they would seem to have only limited use to us as policy makers. Perhaps these documents will only serve as great political fodder for the majority to use in attacking the administration.
“In any case, I have long stated my opposition to the fragmented use of statutes like the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act to confront the challenges of global warming. That was not the purpose for which they were enacted. Only comprehensive legislation, rather than fragmented regulations, is likely to result in meaningful actions.
“In conclusion, I will support this resolution for institutional reasons, though I do have concerns that these documents are being sought for political purposes and will have limited use in helping the Congress develop realistic policies to confront global warming.”