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Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

A little more than five years ago, California Democrat Henry Waxman wrested the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee away from Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.


Democrats were eager to use their new control of Washington (President Obama had just been elected) to advance a big climate and energy bill, and they got halfway there--the Waxman-authored measure passed the House and then stalled in the Senate.

The battle for control of the committee pitted two legislative giants against each other. Now both lawmakers are on their way out.

Dingell, the longest-serving member in congressional history, announced Monday that he's not seeking reelection after nearly 60 years on Capitol Hill. Waxman, who helped craft major environmental and public health measures after being elected in 1974, also announced last month that the current term will be his last.


Their combined footprint on the nation's environmental policy is gigantic.

"[Dingell] not only helped secure passage of the Clean Water Act, the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, he fought back repeated attempts to weaken these foundational laws and the safeguards they provide," said Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) President Frances Beinecke in a statement.

By the way, Beinecke is retiring as president of NRDC, a group she first started working with four decades ago, at the end of this year.

She's one of several green group leaders heading for the exits. On Capitol Hill and off, it's an environmental changing of the guard.


And with U.S. climate policy still a work in progress, it remains to be seen who will fill their shoes.

Ben Geman

P.S. -- Can Obama create a legacy on climate change without Congress? Take the NJ Energy Poll below.


By Clare Foran (@ckmarie)

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COLORADO REGULATES METHANE. Colorado regulators have signed off on the first state-level controls on methane release from oil and natural gas drilling operations.

Our take: The regulations were developed with input from environmentalists and industry. Expect proponents to point to this approach as they call for a way forward on nationwide methane controls.

HIGH COURT JUSTICES QUESTION EPA'S POWERS ON CLIMATE CHANGE PERMITS. Several Supreme Court justices – including, at one point, swing vote Anthony Kennedy – on Monday cast skeptical eyes on Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas permit requirements for large industrial polluters.

COULD A KEYSTONE DECISION COME SOON? According to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the president told governors on Monday he will weigh in on the project in a few months time.

ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCATE IN CONGRESS TO RETIRE. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., announced that he will not seek another term in Congress.

EPA HEAD WILL TRAVEL TO NORTH DAKOTA. Environmental Protection Agency Chief Gina McCarthy will visit the state to talk about how agency policies stand to impact coal and ethanol production at the end of the week.

AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY LAUNCHES MAJOR AD BUY IN ALASKA. The group's newest 30-second spot accuses Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of supporting a carbon tax, an issue of particular resonance in oil-rich Alaska.

TRANSCANADA: PIPELINE ROUTE REMAINS VALID. The company said that the route that Keystone XL would take through Nebraska remains valid until a decision is made in an appeal of a ruling rendered earlier this month.

DON'T CALL TOM STEYER THE LIBERAL VERSION OF THE KOCH BROTHERS. The environmental activist and billionaire takes issue with being compared to the libertarian financiers with a history of backing conservative candidates.

SOME SMILES IN TOUGH TIMES FOR NUCLEAR POWER. Amid cheers over an administration decision to give financial backing to a pair of nuclear reactors, industry boosters are quick to point out that the president's record on nuclear power is mixed.

GE EARMARKS BILLIONS FOR ENERGY R&D. General Electric Co. announced plans to set aside $10 billion to support research on energy innovation projects through 2020.


NATIONAL JOURNAL ENERGY POLL: Can Obama establish a legacy on climate change without action by Congress?

A) Yes, actions taken by the administration are on track to make a significant impact.

B) Yes, but actions by the administration won't make much of an impact.

C) No, the administration could make an impact, but proposed measures won't go far enough.

D) No, any meaningful impact will require action by Congress.

Click here to respond


SHOULD THE U.S. INVEST IN NUCLEAR POWER? How does nuclear fit into the U.S. energy equation and what, if anything, should Washington do to support its deployment?

"In private-sector thinking, nuclear power's status is much diminished. In the finger pointing about why this is so, not enough attention is paid to the technology itself. Here the government's thinking has fallen behind." -Victor Gilinsky, independent consultant and former Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner

Read the full responses from National Journal's Energy Insiders


ECOSYSTEMS HEARING. The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Oversight holds a hearing titled "Natural Resource Adaptation: Protecting Ecosystems and Economies."

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