The chairman’s plans include reforming the use of science in EPA rulemaking, prioritizing basic research at the Department of Energy, promoting STEM education, overseeing cybersecurity investigations, and adjusting NASA’s mission portfolio.
On Monday, the House passed a weather research and forecasting innovation bill that has been four years in the making. It is slightly different from a version the Senate passed in December which the House chose not to consider before the end of the 114th Congress.
The House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on a sweeping energy policy bill with numerous R&D-related provisions before the end of the 114th Congress. The effort may be revived in the new Congress, but the character of the bill could change considerably since the Republicans will control the White House as well as both chambers of Congress.
As Donald Trump's presidential transition continues, both supporters and opponents of the scientific consensus on climate change have begun to ponder the implications for climate research. A flurry of activity in the past two weeks has stirred anxieties in the climate science community and could presage other battles to come.
In what one senator called an “overtime victory for science in the closing days of 2016,” the House passed the Senate’s “American Innovation and Competitiveness Act,” a bipartisan successor to the America COMPETES Acts of 2007 and 2010. President Obama is expected to sign it into law.
Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), Congress’s only physicist member, is leading a group of 38 House Democrats in asking the House Rules Committee to withdraw a recent rule change that permitted House committees to delegate their subpoena authority to their chairs. Among their objections, critics of this unilateral authority argue it is being used to harass scientific researchers.
At a House Science Committee hearing held last week, members expressed bipartisan support for the goal of reducing regulatory burdens experienced by federally funded university researchers. They asked witnesses to explain how actions such as the creation of a new Research Policy Board could help achieve that goal.
This week, the House Science Committee held a hearing to investigate the firing of a Department of Energy scientist following a briefing that she and two other DOE scientists gave to congressional staff on the department’s Low Dose Radiation Research Program. Republican committee members linked the incident to what they allege is a larger “pattern of intentional misinformation from Obama Administration officials.”
The chair of the House Science Committee convened a controversial hearing this week to establish the committee’s legal authority to issue subpoenas relating to state fraud investigations of ExxonMobil. At the hearing, Republican committee members and sympathetic legal scholars outlined a broad authority based on the committee’s right to gather information relevant to its jurisdiction over federal science and technology policy.
State attorneys are using their subpoena power against ExxonMobil to investigate whether the company committed fraud by publicly contradicting its inside knowledge of risks that climate change poses to its business. Meanwhile, Rep. Lamar Smith is attempting to use his subpoena power as chairman of the House Science Committee to intervene in those investigations, claiming as legal justification a committee responsibility to defend scientific freedom. With a showdown looming in that battle, Senate Democrats are using the bully pulpit to condemn organizations that they allege conspire to undermine the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change.