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Washington • A House committee on Tuesday adopted an amendment by Rep. Jim Matheson that says Congress recognizes scientists are concerned about climate change and that the United States needs to develop a policy to address melting ice caps and rising sea levels and temperatures.
But the language pushed by Matheson, a conservative Democrat who is already on the Republicans' election target list for next year, avoided blaming any climate change on humans, a point that was rejected by the same committee only minutes before Matheson got his language through.
The Utah Democrat added his amendment to a Republican-sponsored bill that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions. The Energy and Commerce Committee added the amendment by a unanimous voice vote and later approved the entire measure. Matheson was one of three Democrats to back it.
Matheson's language, which doesn't require any action, simply says that there's established science that climate change is occurring and that Congress needs to have a policy to address it.
Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., further changed Matheson's language to say that Congress could only address climate change in a way that doesn't "adversely affect the American economy, energy supplies and employment."
Matheson, whose congressional website says that climate change is human-caused, says with such a partisan divide he was attempting to find common ground.
"My goal was to show there is some basis where this committee can agree on something," Matheson said later. "The only amendment approved all day was mine. My amendment reached consensus that everyone agrees there is a problem. I think that was a positive step."
Additionally, Matheson argued that his amendment doesn't say human activity didn't cause climate change.
Matheson said he voted for the overall bill to keep EPA from regulating greenhouse gases on stationary things like factories because he believes that's Congress job to decide how to regulate.
"The issue requires a much more tailored approach," he said.
But Matheson's amendment brought jeers from one critic: former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
Anderson said Matheson put forward an "unprincipled approach" to the greatest crisis facing the future of the planet.
Matheson must know that his "cynical" effort will be futile, Anderson said, and only adds a toothless provision to the legislation that will have "disastrous consequences, preventing the only feasible means currently for controlling emissions of greenhouse gases that are transforming our Earth into a far more dangerous, unhealthy, uninhabitable planet."