Landrieu Era to Begin on Senate Energy Committee

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) speaks to reporters at a joint session of Congress for President Obama address on February 24, 2009.
National Journal
Ben Geman
Feb. 11, 2014, 6:55 a.m.

Louisi­ana Demo­crat Mary Landrieu, a staunch ally of oil and nat­ur­al-gas pro­du­cers, is on the cusp of form­ally be­com­ing chair­wo­man of the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee.

Landrieu, who sits to the polit­ic­al right of out­go­ing Chair­man Ron Wyden on en­ergy policy, will of­fi­cially take the gavel Thursday, her of­fice an­nounced Tues­day af­ter­noon. Landrieu had already broken the news Tues­day morn­ing to state util­ity reg­u­lat­ors in town for a con­fer­ence. “I am ex­cited to be work­ing with you all,” she said.

Wyden is be­com­ing chair­man of the power­ful Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee in a game of mu­sic­al chairs set in mo­tion by last week’s Sen­ate con­firm­a­tion of former Sen. Max Baucus to be­come am­bas­sad­or to China.

Landrieu told the util­ity con­fer­ence that she would be­come chair­wo­man early Tues­day af­ter­noon. But her of­fice later is­sued a press re­lease say­ing the Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic Caucus voted Tues­day af­ter­noon to name Landrieu the pan­el’s chair, and the Sen­ate will vote Thursday on a res­ol­u­tion that will make the ap­point­ment of­fi­cial.

Landrieu told Na­tion­al Journ­al in a short in­ter­view Tues­day that she has not yet craf­ted a de­tailed plan for her ten­ure atop the En­ergy pan­el.

“I have not made any de­cisions about the agenda yet. I am in a com­plete listen­ing mode,” she said, adding that she plans to meet with each com­mit­tee mem­ber per­son­ally. “I am just tak­ing it a step at a time.”

But Landrieu con­firmed that her sig­na­ture bill to ex­pand the amount of fed­er­al off­shore oil-and-gas roy­alty pay­ments giv­en to Gulf Coast states is on her agenda. Landrieu’s plan would also provide rev­en­ue-shar­ing to Alaska, as well to states that may have drilling off their shores in the fu­ture.

More broadly, look for Landrieu to use the gavel in a way that’s far more sup­port­ive of ex­port­ing U.S. nat­ur­al gas and crude oil than Wyden was. The chair­man­ship is also ex­pec­ted to fin­an­cially boost what could be a tight reelec­tion cam­paign for Landrieu this fall.

At the meet­ing of the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Reg­u­lat­ory Util­ity Com­mis­sion­ers, Landrieu ex­ten­ded a help­ing hand. “If you have had prob­lems with the com­mit­tee be­fore, please give me a chance to straight­en them out. If you have got­ten along with the com­mit­tee be­fore, give me some tips as to how that worked so well, and we’ll go from there, but please give me a chance,” she said at their winter meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton.

Landrieu drew quick cheers from oil and coal in­dustry groups. The Amer­ic­an Co­ali­tion for Clean Coal Elec­tri­city, an coal in­dustry lob­by­ing group, praised her for be­ing an “out­spoken crit­ic of EPA’s mis­guided car­bon reg­u­la­tions.”

“We hope Sen­at­or Landrieu’s chair­man­ship will in­spire a new era of bi­par­tis­an co­oper­a­tion between both cham­bers of Con­gress in de­fend­ing the Amer­ic­an people and the Amer­ic­an eco­nomy against Pres­id­ent Obama’s dan­ger­ous and reck­less car­bon rules,” said Laura Shee­han, a spokes­wo­man for the group.

An en­vir­on­ment­al group fired a shot across Landrieu’s bow.

“The sen­at­or would do well to re­mem­ber that she rep­res­ents all the cit­izens of Louisi­ana who are deal­ing every day with the health and cli­mate im­pacts of the pet­ro­chem­ic­al in­dustry and not simply the cor­por­ate donors who are lin­ing her pock­ets with petro­dol­lars for reelec­tion,” said Steph­en Kret­zmann, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the group Oil Change In­ter­na­tion­al.

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