By Matt Canham
19 March 2013
WASHINGTON (The Salt Lake Tribune) – Count Utah Rep. Chris Stewart among the skeptics of climate change science and President Barack Obama’s attempts to use federal regulations to curb carbon emissions.
That position puts freshman House member Stewart well within the mainstream of Republican politics, but his views now hold more weight than those of many of his colleagues.
He’s the new chairman of the House environmental subcommittee charged with overseeing the politically charged debate. Stewart leads his first hearing Wednesday focused on the Environmental Protection Agency and he has plans for more that will delve into potential federal actions in the name of climate science — actions he worries may be too drastic and costly.
"I’m not as convinced as a lot of people are that man-made climate change is the threat they think it is," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "I think it is probably not as immediate as some people do."
Stewart doesn’t deny that the world’s climate is warming, but he believes more research is needed to determine why.
He also believes policymakers need to examine the issue through a fiscal lens. He thinks Congress should take a three-step approach before taking action in the name of climate change, starting with a look at the science.
"What is the real threat? What are the economic impacts of those threats? And what are the economic impacts of those remedies?" he asked, explaining his approach. "Some of the remedies are more expensive to our economy than the threat may turn out to be."
Stewart points to Obama’s failed plan to cap carbon emissions for businesses and let them sell credits to bigger polluters. The House rejected the cap-and-trade plan in his first term, partly because estimates said it would result in a spike in utility bills for families. […]
Stewart’s position on climate change didn’t surprise Tim Wagner, of the Sierra Club of Utah, but it did irritate him.
"If he is overseeing a committee that is supposed to be based on science, but ignoring the science, it doesn’t do much for his credibility," said Wagner. "Unless he’s trying to appeal to a specific industry, which is fossil fuels."
Stewart’s 2nd Congressional District includes the oil refineries in south Davis County. Donors associated with oil and gas contributed more than $40,000 to his 2012 campaign, his second highest total behind contributions from Republican officials, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Wagner argues that if Stewart wants to examine the economic impacts he should start by looking at the damage Hurricane Sandy inflicted in New York and New Jersey or the fires that devoured homes in Colorado and Utah last summer.
"Those are real costs and if you ignore those, then you are ignoring your constituents," he said. [more]