Landrieu ponders staff changes, outreach as she girds to take gavel

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

As she prepares to take the helm of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) yesterday said she plans to keep the panel’s existing senior staff for “a time” but is also merging her own aides into the mix.

Landrieu also appealed to state regulators yesterday to help her smoothly transition into her role as chairwoman in remarks at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ winter meeting.

“If you had problems with the committee before, please give me a chance to straighten them out,” Landrieu said. “If you’ve gotten along with the committee, give me some tips as to how that worked so well, and we’ll go from there.”

She will take the gavel once current Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) shifts to head the Finance Committee, a spot left open after former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was confirmed to become U.S. ambassador to China. The gavels are not expected to be formally handed off until at least tomorrow so the senators can wrap up some unfinished business in their current committees (E&ENews PM, Feb. 11).

Landrieu said she’s coordinating the transition with Wyden and ENR Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who she noted would continue to be ranking member next year “unless the Democrats lose [control of the Senate in November], and then I’ll be ranking member, if I win, and she’ll be the chair.” Landrieu is locked in a tight battle for re-election.

In her remarks yesterday, Landrieu said a revolution in domestic oil and gas development, the power markets and the U.S. grid must be used as a tool to boost the middle class. She also said she sees a very important role for the federal government to play, while recognizing the “tensions between the states, all 50 states.”

The Senate ENR panel is a critical counterpart for states in myriad energy issues, including LNG exports, nuclear waste, grid reliability and nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Murkowski said yesterday she has not yet sat down with Landrieu to discuss the committee’s upcoming priorities, noting that Landrieu is busy finishing up her role as chairwoman of the Small Business Committee.

“Not only is she gearing up with staff and just kind of doing the mind shift, she’s also been closing down what she’s been doing with Small Business,” Murkowski said. “I’m going to give her that breathing room that she needs.”