Commercial Crew, Climate Change Research Top Concerns of New House Committee Chairman

Commercial Crew, Climate Change Research Top Concerns of New House Committee Chairman

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), incoming chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, identified commercial crew and climate change research as key space issues in an interview with the Dallas Morning News.

Rep. Hall’s skepticism about the ability of commercial companies like SpaceX to reliably and safely take over the government’s role in sending people to and from the International Space Station (ISS) is no secret. During hearings held by the committee in 2010, where he currently is the ranking Republican, Rep. Hall made clear that he did not think the time was right to turn that task completely over to the private sector. In his comments to the Dallas Morning News, he was quoted as saying: “I do have [concerns] because it’s so important and it’s so dangerous and it’s so subject to failure. … I want to be assured that they’re not going to run out of money.”

NASA’s research on climate change was a target of congressional concern the last time Republicans were in control, and it appears that it will be again. The newspaper refers to Rep. Hall as an “unconditional champion of fossil fuels,” adding that he intends to appoint Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) as chairman of the investigations and oversight (I&O) subcommittee.

Rep. Sensenbrenner has a long background in Congress dealing with climate change issues and is deeply skeptical of the extent to which it is human-induced. A past chairman of what was then called the House Science Committee, he serves as ranking member of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming in the current Congress. The Republicans have indicated that committee will not continue into the 112th Congress. If he does take the chair of the I&O subcommittee, he will have a new forum to continue that pursuit.

During committee markup of the 2010 NASA authorization bill earlier this year, Rep. Sensenbrenner successfully attached a “Climategate” amendment that would have required NASA to report to Congress on the extent to which its temperature measurements overlap with records of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia and whether those records therefore were compromised. That version of the bill did not pass, but the East Anglia emails that were illegally made public and interpreted by some as evidence that climate scientists misrepresented scientific findings are likely to be a focus of his investigations. Rep. Hall agrees that looking deeply into climate change issues is important, telling the Dallas Morning News that “I’m interested in the truth on that….There are a lot of people who believe that a lot of decisions were made on the false statements of others.”

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