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Florida's New GOP Senator Is An Environmentalist--But For How Long?

Last Friday, Florida Governor Charlie Crist tapped his former chief of staff, George LeMieux, to serve out the remaining months of Mel Martinez's Senate term. This is the same Senate seat, of course, that Crist himself is gunning for 2010, if he can just fend off a GOP primary challenge from Marco Rubio. Now, Crist is one of those rare environmental Republicans, and he'd be a decent bet to vote for a climate bill if he were sitting in the Senate right now. So what about his chief of staff? He seems pretty green, too, according to InsideEPA:

LeMieux also was responsible for defending Crist when, at the close of the 2007 climate summit, the governor signed executive orders calling for reductions in GHG emissions, increases in renewable energy deployment and enhancements to efficiency standards, among other climate-related goals. When critics invoked industry-funded studies to argue those orders would damage the state’s economy, LeMieux was among those leading the effort to rebut such charges and argue for the need to confront climate change.

This experience gives LeMieux a detailed understanding of the arguments for and against climate legislation, giving him a leg up on every other candidate considered to fill Martinez’s seat, a Florida energy analyst says. “He understands all that stuff—why would you do an 80 percent reduction from 1990 levels, why would you do cap and trade. . . . George clearly understands what’s at stake for Florida from unimpeded climate change; he clearly understands the policies needed to protect us from the worst of climate change’s impacts,” the source says.

Yup, LeMieux sure seems like a slam-dunk supporter of a climate bill in the Senate—and since any vote on capping carbon will undoubtedly be close, that could make a huge difference. Then again, odds are Lemieux will only vote yes if it helps Crist politically. If, for some reason, Crist suddenly finds himself in a close race against Rubio and "cap-and-trade" turns into a dirty word among Florida Republicans, then it's not hard to imagine LeMieux just flipping and finding some excuse not to vote for a policy he once strongly supported (if he needs ideas, he can always ask John McCain).