Washington • Rep. Chris Stewart joined Congress at the start of January and just two months later he’s already taking on a new title — chairman.
Stewart, R-Utah, became the top man on the Environment Subcommittee on Tuesday. The panel, which is part of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, overseeing the Environmental Protection Agency and federal climate change policy.
The move comes as Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., the former subcommittee chairman, took a spot on the coveted Appropriations Committee.
It is unusual but not unheard of for a House freshman to lead a subcommittee.
Stewart’s quick rise means that all three of Utah’s House Republicans now lead subcommittees. Rep. Rob Bishop is the chairman of the Public Lands Subcommittee and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, is the chairman of the Subcommittee of National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, the longest serving of Utah’s four House members is not the top Democrat on any panel, but does have a spot on the wide-ranging House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In announcing Stewart’s quick promotion full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith noted that Stewart previously ran a consulting firm that trained federal workers on environmental procedures.
"Rep. Stewart brings a unique perspective to the subcommittee," said Smith, R-Texas. "I look forward to working closely with my colleagues to make sure new rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency are appropriate, transparent and utilize the best available science."
Republicans on the committee have slammed the EPA under President Barack Obama arguing that officials have used federal regulations to slow the development of oil and gas projects.
Stewart said he would use the post to "ensure that government agencies employ sound science when making decisions."
He will assume the gavel as chairman on Wednesday holding a hearing on climate change.
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