Group of Senate Democrats hold first "climate crisis" hearing

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A group of 10 Democratic senators held their first hearing for the Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. The committee aims to examine how climate change is affecting the country and the planet and to mobilize action and support for bold climate solutions. The lawmakers invited utilities executives from around the country to discuss what they are doing at the local level to address climate change as they provide services.

Senator Schatz (D-HI) says energy companies around the country are already taking steps to combat climate change. (Source: Gray DC)

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) invited Alan Oshima, President and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Company. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) invited Eric Olsen, Vice President and General Counsel of Great River Energy.

"The transition to a clean energy future is already underway. They're already doing it and they're doing it in a way that actually benefits their rate payers," said Schatz speaking about the executives on hand at the hearing.

The committee is inherently partisan, with zero Republicans participating. But Schatz says they tried to achieve a diverse membership by bringing folks in from Hawaii, the east coast, and the midwest, where Senator Smith is from.

"We asked to have a bipartisan committee of Republicans and Democrats working together. (Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell said no. He didn't want to be apart of that," said Smith.

On the commitee's website, they say, "We cannot wait for Republicans in the Senate to accept—let alone propose solutions to fix—climate change in a real way. That is why this Special Committee is an important step on the path to solutions in the U.S. Senate."

In response to a request for comment from the Majority Leader, his office responded with McConnell's remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday: "Just last week, after nearly a decade of the War on Coal, the Trump Administration finalized the rollback of an Obama-era regulation that threatened to ship Kentucky jobs overseas and send energy bills through the roof. Instead of harnessing America’s abundant sources of reliable and affordable energy, the previous administration tried to coerce every state to drastically restructure their electricity systems to conform with Washington’s unfeasible and likely illegal restrictions. And, it’s important to remember, all that self-imposed economic pain would’ve produced little to no meaningful effect on global emissions.

“I spent years leading the fight against Obama’s anti-coal policies. And with the help of the Trump administration, we’re finally putting a stop to Washington overregulation. Last week’s decision replaces the so-called Clean Power Plan with a regulation that actually works with states to encourage energy production while also protecting the environment. This president’s commitment to middle America is welcome news after years of overreach, overregulation, and policies that seemed to have been dreamt up for the benefit of elite coastal areas but which left a lot of the rest of us behind."

The Democrats say they plan to have more hearings in the near future. You can hear the full interviews with Smith, Schatz, and Oshima above.

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