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Pelosi forms 'climate crisis' committee, but activists say it may be too weak

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Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill last month.
Susan Walsh | AP

House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi announced Friday the formation of a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis after weeks of protests by activists calling for stronger governmental responses to global warming.

Florida Democrat Rep. Kathy Castor will chair the new committee, Pelosi said, which "will be critical to the entire Congress's mission to respond to the urgency of this threat, while creating the good-paying, green jobs of the future.

"The American people have demanded action to combat the climate crisis, which threatens our public health, our economy, our national security and the whole of God's creation," Pelosi said in a statement.

While details on the committee remain fuzzy, it appears the new select committee won't be as strong as climate activists pushing for a Green New Deal had hoped. The proposal has gained steam among Democrats, including Minnesota Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, since the midterm election. 

Varshini Prakash, founder and spokeswoman for the Sunrise Movement, said the new committee may be weaker than an old select commitee on climate change, which lacked power to draft legislation. 

Castor on Twitter said the new committee was a reinstatement of an old select committee on climate change, which lacked the power to draft legislation. 

Maryland Democrat Rep. Steny Hoyer, the incoming House majority leader, told the Associated Press the committee likely won't have subpoena power for legally compelling testimony or documents. 

The Sunrise Movement and other climate activism groups have pushed for a Green New Deal — sweeping legislation that would, among other things, make the U.S. economy carbon-neutral. 

Prakash said any committee that doesn't have a mandate to institute a Green New Deal is inadequate.

"Refusing to embrace the proposal for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal would be a dereliction of duty from Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Leadership and a sure-fire way to lose the votes and energy from the supermajority of Americans who back a Green New Deal," Prakash said in a statement, citing a study finding most Americans support the plan.