2 top GOP senators endorse roll back on U.S. climate policy

Daniel Yergin, left, CERAWeek chair, leads a discussion with Lisa Murkowski,
chairman US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and John Cornyn, right, majority whip, United States Senate, Texas, during CERWeek by IHS Markit Friday, March 10, 2017, in Houston. (Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle)

Republican Senators John Cornyn and Lisa Murkowksi offered support Friday for President Donald Trump’s plans to roll back U.S. climate regulations, saying a focus on building technology will do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We should have faith in our ability to innovate our way out of these challenges before creating another government enterprise or international treaty that restrains our economy,” Cornyn, a senator from Texas, said while speaking at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit energy conference.  “The natural gas renaissance has been one of the greatest causes of reduced emissions, and I don’t think the energy sector gets enough credit.”

The Trump administration has said it will not defend former President Barack Obama’s plan to cut power plant emissions, which is currently being litigated in the federal courts. And world leaders are eagerly watching to see if Trump will carry through on a campaign promise to pull the United States from the 2015 Paris treaty on climate change.

During an appearance at CERAWeek Thursday, Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, questioned whether human activity was the primary cause of climate change, something bodies including NASA and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration say is true.

Asked about those comments, Murkowski, of Alaska, said the impact of human activity was “worthy of great debate” but it was critical policymakers to develop solutions to climate change.

“We need to move on and lead the world on the technologies we’re utilizing to provide for reduced emissions,” she said. “We have an industry willingly doing that, and we need to give them room.”

The senators covered a range of issues from tax reform to infrastructure while speaking on stage with Daniel Yergin, host of the annual CERAWeek event.

Cornyn expressed support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has said he wants to open back up for negotiation. Cornyn said he was told by the administration the focus was on updating  NAFTA, not to “throw it in the waste basket.”

“NAFTA is not a dirty word in Texas,” he said.