It's really amazing what campaigning for and winning a title like Chairman can do to a 24-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives. Because the 2011 version of Rep. Fred Upton (MI-6) is totally unrecognizable to the Congressman whose environmental voting record once displayed thoughtfulness not commonly found among many other Republican leaders.
Yet now contradictions abound in not only his statements but also his actions.
Even after twenty four years Rep. Upton has the 12th highest LCV lifetime environmental score of Republicans in the House. In 2007 he not only supported, but co-authored a measure with Rep. Jane Harman (CA-36) to set lighting standards that would ban inefficient, incandescent light bulbs. And as recently as April 2009 Rep. Upton acknowledged that climate change is "a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions." He also voted for the Clean Air Act Amendments in 1990 which passed through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and updated the existing law to address modern day air pollution.
But now Rep. Upton is leading the charge to block the EPA's use of this landmark law to regulate dangerous carbon pollution stating "We will not allow the administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate."
This recent flip-flop on climate action should come as no surprise since Koch Industries, one of the most prominent oil companies seeking to block the EPA, was among Rep. Upton's top contributors in the last election cycle, along with several other energy companies.
And since being awarded the chairmanship of Energy & Commerce, Rep. Upton has set out to prove to Big Oil that he's their guy.
In December, Rep. Upton coauthored a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that has opposed action on climate change and is funded by Koch Industries, stating that they "are not convinced that carbon is a problem in need of regulation." And to kick off a new year and a new chairmanship, Rep. Upton took a front row seat in the audience at the American Petroleum Institute's preview of the oil industry's agenda for 2011, rubbing elbows with the country's most powerful oil-and-gas industry trade group. One oil industry lobbyist admitted about Upton that "our interests and his and the Republican conference's align, especially on EPA stuff."
And when Glenn Beck and Fox News get on his case, it seems like Rep. Upton will do or say just about anything to get back into favor, even going so far as to renege on previous support for banning inefficient light bulbs and scrubbing his website to erase any evidence of his moderate environmental past. Winning respect from Fox News necessitates this type of blind allegiance to climate denial; heads of the "news" organization have been known to send emails to staff demanding that they continually call into question sound and settled climate science.
The campaign is over and Rep. Upton clinched the chairmanship. Though in the past he's been an environmental advocate part of the time, his actions in recent months clearly indicate that the legacy he plans to leave as Chair of the powerful Energy & Commerce committee is one that puts polluter interests ahead of the public interest. That instead of championing efforts to transition our nation to a more prosperous clean energy economy, he hopes to strip the EPA of its ability to protect public health in order to protect the bottom line of Big Oil and other dirty energy interests.
UPDATE: Politico reported this morning that top staffers for Rep. Upton and Sen. Jim Inhofe - the Senate's leading global warming denier - are meeting behind closed doors with energy industry lobbyists to plot an all-out push to block federal and state climate rules.