If all the recent committee reshuffling is any indication, House Democrats are putting themselves in position to throw long on climate and energy legislation over the next two years. As Dave Roberts reports, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by new chairman Henry Waxman, announced today that it was folding all of its environmental portfolios into a single new subcommittee, to be chaired by Ed Markey of Massachusetts, an enviro fave who was previously heading up the telecommunications subcommittee.
That's a huge shift. In the last session, Virginia's Rick Boucher—a major coal ally—chaired the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, while Texas congressman Gene Green chaired the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. Both were aligned with outgoing chairman John Dingell, and both were far more cautious about climate and environmental legislation than Markey, a longtime advocate for stricter fuel-economy standards who, last year, put forward an aggressive cap-and-trade bill that aimed to cut emissions 85 percent by 2050, auctioned off all pollution allowances by 2020, and placed a de facto moratorium on any new coal plant that couldn't capture and sequester its carbon. A bill like that would no doubt trigger massive debate in the House (not to mention fierce resistance in the Senate), but it's an ambitious starting point—and certainly in line with IPCC recommendations. Markey is also reportedly close with Carol Browner, Obama's new point person on energy and climate issues.
In other news, Markey will keep his chairmanship of the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, which, as Roberts notes, will allow him to "hold hearings on national security, jobs, housing, refugees, trade, you name it. Those subjects are outside the E&E Subcommittee's legislative bailiwick but within the Select Committee's bully-pulpit bailiwick." The Boston Globe says this all "signals a shift under Pelosi toward a more environmental perspective on energy policy," which is one understated way of putting it.