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Fred Upton Might Join Bipartisan Climate Caucus

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., might join a bipartisan climate change caucus. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., might join a bipartisan climate change caucus. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A House caucus that supports legislation to combat climate change may be joined by key Republican energy influencer who would raise its credibility among GOP lawmakers.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the former Energy and Commerce chairman who leads the committee’s energy panel, is considering joining the bipartisan 48-member Climate Solutions Caucus, a group equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

He first indicated his interest in an interview with Axios, and an aide confirmed he is looking at the group.

“Yes, he is considering joining,” Upton spokesman Tom Wilbur confirmed to CQ Roll Call in an email. He did not comment on why Upton is considering the move.

Upton’s addition would bring a high-ranking GOP congressman with close ties to leadership into the caucus’ fold. Upton’s current role as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Energy Subcommittee could also offer an avenue for the caucus to advance legislation through the committee process.

While Upton has acknowledged climate change, as well as the role of human activity it it, he has used his time as a committee leader to support an “all-the-above” energy agenda rather than advancing only low- or zero-carbon emitting sources.

Upton was an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s push to impose regulations in its fight to combat climate change, especially the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule on power plant emissions, which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is working to undo. Upton’s opposition to that rule, though, was based more on the economic costs and federal government overreach than with its carbon cutting goals.

He joined members of the caucus last week in opposing an amendment to the fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill that would have deleted a section directing military officials to identify bases at risk because of climate change impacts such as rising sea levels.

The caucus has six Energy and Commerce members — two Republicans and four Democrats. Reps. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., and Ryan A. Costello, R-Pa., are the GOP members.

Established in February 2016, the group has rapidly grown. The caucus is co-chaired by Florida lawmakers Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, and Ted Deutch, a Democrat. Curbelo has called the group “an ideas factory” for climate change policy that balances benefits for the economy and the environment.