Rep. Garret Graves Dials in to Committee Hearing From Hurricane-Ravaged Louisiana District

When members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee convened virtually for a debate over funding priorities on Thursday, one congressman noticeably videoed in from an unusual location.

U.S. Representative Garret Graves, a Louisiana Republican, was surrounded by high-water vehicles and firetrucks. When on screen, he was often shifting to keep the spotty connection he had managed to find in an area where even electricity is limited because of the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida that slammed into South Louisiana just days earlier.

"I apologize, we had to find somewhere where we could get a good cell connection," Graves told the committee in his opening remarks. "Cellphone service is out across most of the area in South Louisiana. We don't have water, we don't have sewer, we don't have electricity.

"We have active search-and-rescue operations going on as we speak. Quite frankly, the fact that I'm freakin' sitting here right now, even spending time with y'all, is ridiculous."

Currently in a House Natural Resources Markup that will kneecap Louisiana’s offshore energy production while LA also suffers from complete devastation.

I’m doing markup from Springfield Fire Department that is monitoring rising water levels related to Ida

— Rep. Garret Graves (@RepGarretGraves) September 2, 2021

The Natural Resources Committee is locked in a blistering fight between Democrats and Republicans over the effects of climate change, energy independence and other priorities that fall under the committee's jurisdiction.

Democrats are seeking ambitious spending on green energy initiatives and other efforts to address climate change. The legislation is seen as their biggest shot at transformative change for the future, and it's backed by President Joe Biden.

Under the budget framework that the House and Senate passed last month, Natural Resources was directed to outline $25.6 billion in priorities. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who chairs the Natural Resources panel, said he has identified an additional $6 billion through "revenue raisers"—primarily new fees targeting fossil fuels.

Graves said the debate—and ultimately how it will affect his state—was so pressing he had no choice but to join in, sitting on an ice chest in the back of a truck parked at the Springfield Fire Department in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, where crews are monitoring water levels that continue to rise.

Graves has served as the ranking member on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and has been referred to as "the rare Republican who's actually worried about climate change."

But he's not a Green New Deal backer. He more often pushes efforts to ready people for the climate change that's already happening and softer measures, such as reducing pollution and focusing on energy efficiency.

On Thursday, linking in from a device labeled "g's ipad," he accused his Democratic colleagues of "chasing these emotions."

"All of these other areas of policy—folks are acting on emotion, not acting on facts, not acting on evidence, not realizing that you don't want to make a mistake," an increasingly agitated Graves argued.

Louisiana, which is suffering from severe coastal erosion and increasingly intense weather events like Ida, depends heavily on the oil and gas industry.

Graves argued that penalizing the industry makes the United States more reliant on countries that don't care about clean energy and emissions. He's also advocated for mitigation measures to address immediate concerns, like massive flooding.

"All this does is benefit Iran, benefits Russia, it benefits China," he said. "Part of the reason that we're dealing with some of the chaos that we're dealing with is because of your refusal and failure to actually recognize proper priorities and needs and voting against things that need to be done."

Grijalva expressed his sympathies for the people of Louisiana affected by the storm but reiterated the Democratic priorities of cleaner, more sustainable energy.

"We have a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance in bold, ambitious investments of the United States," he said. "We hope that we are making some consequential investments in preventing the worst from happening in the future."

Congressman Garret Graves from Hurricane Ida-hit district
U.S. Representative Garret Graves, a Louisiana Republican, dialed in to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee hearing on budget priorities from the Springfield Fire Department in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, on September 2, 2021. House Committee on Natural Resources livestream/Screen grab