DeFazio sees inside track for Markey’s panel slot

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio yesterday said he has the support of key Democrats to succeed Rep. Ed Markey as the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee if the Massachusetts lawmaker wins his race for a Senate seat next month.

But Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who has served as top Democrat on the committee’s public lands panel for the past three sessions of Congress, said he will continue to vie for the seat, promising to bring a progressive voice to the committee, which oversees the management of one-fifth of the U.S. landmass.

DeFazio, who is next in seniority to Markey, picked up key endorsements Friday from fellow Resources Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Grace Napolitano of California and Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa.

Yesterday, DeFazio told E&E Daily that he is also supported by Reps. Nick Rahall of West Virginia — a former Resources chairman who is currently serving as ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — and George Miller of California, another former chairman of Resources.

DeFazio said he is also supported by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), the current ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, who some speculated would consider running for Markey’s job.

Markey easily won his primary last week over Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and, according to a Democratic polling firm this week, holds a four-point lead over Republican hopeful Gabriel Gomez in Massachusetts’ June 25 special election to replace ex-Sen. John Kerry (D), who stepped down to become secretary of the State Department earlier this year.

Last Friday, both DeFazio and Grijalva fired off letters to colleagues stating their case to fill Markey’s shoes, assuming he wins his race.

In his letter to Democratic chiefs of staff, DeFazio emphasized his 26 years of seniority on Resources and “broad knowledge and experience on the full range of issues before the committee.”

He said he holds progressive views on many resource issues but is “pragmatic and sensitive to the fact that policies play differently in different districts.”

Citing concerns over the potential manipulation of carbon markets, DeFazio voted against Markey’s and Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) cap-and-trade climate bill in summer 2009.

DeFazio said he supported an alternative approach by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) to put a price on carbon emissions and that he supports President Obama’s Clean Air Act authority to mandate reductions in global warming gases.

“I’ll match my environmental credentials against any member of Congress, but you have to be pragmatic about the way you get there,” DeFazio said.

DeFazio, whose western Oregon district is highly dependent on logging, has pushed some forestry policies that have grated environmental groups.

He said he has the support of a majority of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which determines the party’s leadership.

A DeFazio victory would put an Oregonian in the top Democratic slot of the resource committees in both chambers — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Grijalva, who vied for the ranking member position of Natural Resources in late 2009 before deferring to Markey, who was then chairman of a select panel on global warming, said his bid for ranking member is “not insurmountable, but a tough road.”

“I don’t underestimate Mr. DeFazio,” Grijalva told E&E Daily. “I respect his work.”

Grijalva said he has gained “good commitments” from a number of members and is lobbying outside groups, including environmental organizations, for support. He downplayed DeFazio’s recent endorsements.

“I’m not convincing my colleagues because so and so is endorsing me,” he said. “I am convincing them because of the leadership I would bring.”

In his letter to Democratic colleagues Friday, Grijalva noted that he had passed up an opportunity to join the powerful Ways and Means Committee so that he could focus his efforts on the environment.

“I’ve spent every day since I got to Washington working on global warming, renewable energy, mining reform, public lands, endangered species, Native American relations, and better public resource management,” he wrote. “The people of your district want to know someone is looking out for forests, not just loggers; rivers, not just polluters; mountains, not just mining companies.”

Grijalva noted his early scrutiny of offshore drilling safety before the Deepwater Horizon disaster and his efforts to defend environmental laws against Republican attacks.

While the environmental community typically does not wade into leadership battles, it would likely endorse Grijalva if it were asked to weigh in.

Grijalva, who has a 95 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters — DeFazio’s is 90 percent — is well-liked by conservationists. Environmental groups endorsed Grijalva to become President Obama’s first Interior secretary in 2008, but he was later passed over for the more moderate Ken Salazar, who was then a Democratic senator from Colorado.

Grijalva is also a member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, while DeFazio is not.