Subcommittee on the Environment Ranking Member Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) opened this week’s hearing by emphasizing the devastation and destruction wildfires have had on American communities. In his opening statement, Ranking Member Norman slammed Democrats for delaying a hearing on this important topic for over a year and highlighted how the Committee’s power is instead being abused to push their partisan investigation into the oil and gas industry. Instead of attacking domestic energy production and destroying Americans’ livelihoods, he emphasized the need for the Oversight Committee to return to its intended mission and address the mounting crises created by the Biden Administration. In addition, Ranking Member Norman championed active forest management to prevent wildfires and denounced radical left-wing environmental groups for continuing to push a false climate change narrative. He concluded by praising science-backed solutions which can accelerate the scope and scale of federal forest management to ensure a sustainable and resilient future.

Below are Subcommittee Ranking Member Norman’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Chairman Khanna, for holding this hearing.

Wildfires are an important issue. In 2021, there were nearly 60,000 wildfires that burned over 7 million acres. That’s devastating for many parts of the country. 

However, the fires that occurred in 2021 were on par with the five and ten-year national averages. So why are we just now getting around to having a hearing about wildfires?

I think the answer is obvious. Last week, we were supposed to have a hearing on how bad the oil and gas industry is but that issue no longer fits the Democrats’ narrative. 

The hearing was canceled and the Environment Subcommittee needed something to do.  Why else would we wait over a year into the 117th Congress to talk about an important issue like wildfires?

For weeks the Democrats berated board members from oil and gas companies to appear before this Committee. They even threatened to subpoena witnesses that have been fully compliant with the Democrats’ sham investigation.

Given the events of recent weeks, namely Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Democrats finally came to the realization that a continued assault on domestic energy production was no longer politically expedient.

Russia’s grip on European energy showcases how crucial it is that America expand its capacity for production capabilities for oil and natural gas to secure our own energy independence and assist our allies with energy needs throughout the world.

What President Biden does not seem to understand is that America stands ready to fill the void on the energy needs of our allies in times of geopolitical crisis. For the sake of national security, we must position our domestic energy resources to protect the freedom of democracy both at home and abroad.

Some Biden Administration officials think we can drive our way out of this self-inflicted crisis with electric vehicles. But this elitist idea doesn’t take into account that the average cost of an electric vehicle is $55,000. The median household income is $67,000. It’s completely out of touch to think Americans can afford to use 84 percent of their annual income on an electric car.

I’ve got a reality check for Democrats on this Committee and President Biden – Americans are still reliant on oil and gas. Our constituents need them to drive their cars and heat and power their homes and businesses. 

But Democrats want the American people to risk their livelihoods and way of life. They want to end the use of oil and gas immediately. This is an unsustainable proposition.

Unfortunately, they’re trying to accomplish this goal by berating American oil and gas companies into submission.

Constantly holding hearings, demanding mountains of documents, and vilifying an entire industry – yet none of these actions will change the fact that we need to use our domestic oil and gas supplies.

The stakes are just too high. America has demonstrated that we can safely utilize our oil and gas reserves to the benefit of our people and can bring energy stability to a world that is turned to chaos at the whim of irrational foreign actors.

America is blessed with abundant natural resources, including oil and natural gas. But Democrats don’t want us to use them to our advantage. I am tired of the left’s notions that we must take a backseat to Russia and China on energy issues.

As for the topic of this hearing today, I am looking forward to hearing from Mr. Hubbard, the former Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who knows first-hand about wildfire response.

The Democrats and left-wing environmental groups push the narrative that climate change is the sole reason for the worsening fire crisis but that’s not the case.

Science clearly shows that active forest management is the best way to prevent wildfires.

In 2020, 70% of U.S. acreage that burned occurred on federal lands. That statistic is a clear reflection of the mismanagement of our national forests and public lands.

We need to focus on real, science-backed solutions to ensure that the Forest Service can accelerate the scope and scale of federal forest management to ensure a sustainable and resilient future. 

I appreciate the Chief of the Forest Service appearing today before the Committee, but I would suggest that if Democrats are serious about conducting oversight of this Administration that they invite more federal government witnesses to these hearings.

I thank the witnesses for their participation today, and I yield back.

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