Higgins had a contentious exchange during the hearing with clean energy advocate Raya Salter, who he at various points referred to as “young lady” and “boo.”
“I’m trying to give you the floor, boo,” Higgins told Salter at one point as the two talked over one another.
Salter is an attorney, a consultant and an adjunct professor at Cardoza Law School, according to a biography on her website.
Ocasio-Cortez blasted Higgins when she had her turn to speak.
“In the four years that I’ve sat on this committee, I have never seen members of Congress, Republican or Democrat, disrespect a witness in the way that I have seen them disrespect you today,” Ocasio-Cortez told Salter during the hearing.
“Frankly, men who treat women like that in public — I fear how they treat them in private. We can be better than this. We don’t have to resort to yelling.”
Higgins and Salter got into an argument during questioning, talking over each other as Higgins asked her how she would deal with petrol-chemical products if fossil fuels were eliminated.
Salter replied that she would turn to the congressman and ask him to “search your heart” about the fossil fuel industry’s impact on Black and poor populations in Louisiana, and the conversation became heated.
“You know what you got, young lady? You got a lot of noise, but you got no answers,” Higgins said.
Salter accused Higgins of being “owned” by the fossil fuel industry.
The committee was meeting to examine profits and climate pledges from Big Oil companies like Exxon and Shell in the context of the ongoing climate crisis.
Salter is the founder and executive director of the Energy Justice Law and Policy Center.
“Do you care about the planet, good lady? Like, do you have ecological concern, for real? … The Lord gave us dominion over the planet and the creatures thereof… from a biblical perspective, I am an environmentalist. I love my planet and the people and the creatures thereof. Do you?” Higgins asked Salter.
Ocasio-Cortez said she wanted to apologize to Salter for how Higgins had treated her, saying “the people do not deserve to see that.”
Salter interjected to thank the New York congresswoman. “You’ve provided so much leadership and courage. They can come for me all day long,” Salter said.
“Well, let’s get them today, then,” AOC quipped back.
The Hill has reached out to Higgins’ office for comment.