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Rep. Andrew P. Harris, a sharp critic of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, will continue to serve as chairman of the House environment subcommittee that oversees the EPA.
As the subcommittee’s chairman, his “primary responsibility will be oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency to make sure they use sound science and are transparent during the regulatory process,” Harris (R-Dist. 1) of Cockeysville said in an emailed statement. The subcommittee falls under the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
The announcement of Harris as chairman of the environment subcommittee drew a tepid response from environmental activists concerned about climate change. They note that 2012 was the hottest year on record.
“We obviously agree with him that it should be based on sound science. We just have a different idea of what that means,” said Rob Sargent, Environment America’s program director overseeing energy development and climate change.
Last June, Harris sent a letter to EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson criticizing the agency’s “confusing and questionable approach to hydraulic fracturing,” calling the EPA’s opposition to the natural gas extraction method as based on a political agenda.
“These examples, while individually very troubling, collectively suggest the EPA is not objectively pursuing an improved understanding of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water,” Harris said in the letter.
Harris also criticized a proposal by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create the National Climate Service by saying it “could become little propaganda sources instead of a science source.”
Harris, whose district includes much of the area along the Chesapeake Bay, has “behaved responsibly” when it comes to Bay issues, said Doug Siglin, federal affairs director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“He believes environmental policy should be based on science,” Siglin said. “I don’t think there’s a question on the consensus of scientists that the Bay has way too much nutrients in it, and we know with a great deal of precision what effect that has on the water quality.”
Environment Maryland Director Tommy Landers said having a Marylander in a leadership position is usually good for the state. A spokesman for Harris referred questions for Harris to the statement his office released.
“Environmentalists across the state are looking forward to working with him to advance those goals,” Landers said.
“The EPA has been doing important and critical things. We have to listen to what the vast majority of scientists are telling us regarding climate change.”