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US House flip could bolster oversight of Trump regulatory-rollback agenda

Washington — The US House of Representatives will flip to Democratic control, returning split government to Washington and likely changing the energy policy debate in Washington, major media outlets reported late Tuesday.

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President Donald Trump's efforts to turn back regulations of his predecessor Barack Obama related to climate change and air and water controls are likely to face increased oversight. Some Trump administration appointees, such as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, could face aggressive investigation by a Democratic-controlled legislative body with powerful subpoena powers.

Even if they temper the impulse to badger the administration through oversight, with the 2020 elections in sight Democrats will have the chance to pitch legislation to showcase their own priorities on energy.

The odds of major legislation are, for the most part, complicated by divided government. Infrastructure legislation might still emerge as area of common ground, but most observers see funding for that to be a hurdle.

Representative Frank Pallone, Democrat-New Jersey, who likely will be named chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said one of his main priorities would be strengthening the economy through investments in green energy and drinking water infrastructure.

"We would also focus on the need to address climate change by looking at its impacts on our communities and economy, and by holding the Trump administration accountable for dangerous policies that only make it worse," he said in a recent email. He added that Democrats would look to "restore environmental protections that have been gutted over the last few years."

The Trump administration has sought to scale back regulation of methane emissions from oil and gas operations, but those efforts and others have hit roadblocks in federal courts. -- Maya Weber, maya.weber@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Christopher Newkumet, newsdesk@spglobal.com