Pete Domenici: ‘The undisputed leader on energy issues in the Senate’

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017

New Mexico Republican Pete Domenici, his state’s longest-serving U.S. senator and a powerhouse lawmaker on energy issues, died today. He was 85.

The former senator had recently undergone abdominal surgery at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque and had suffered a setback during his recovery, the Albuquerque Journal reported. He died at the hospital with his wife, Nancy, and son Pete Domenici Jr. at his side, the Journal said.

The six-term senator who served from 1973 to 2009 was known as “Uncle Pete” in the upper chamber. He was a driving force on energy, playing a key role in the passage of the 2005 energy bill and the creation of a federal loan guarantee program to finance new U.S. nuclear plants.

He chaired the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee from 2003 to 2007 and in 2004 wrote a book promoting nuclear power, “A Brighter Tomorrow: Fulfilling the Promise of Nuclear Energy.”

His enthusiasm for nuclear power earned him the nickname “grandfather of the nuclear renaissance.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hailed Domenici in a statement this morning.

“He had a long and notable career, one that took him from pitching on the baseball diamond to teaching mathematics at an Albuquerque junior high school, from city politics to the U.S. Senate,” McConnell said.

“In fact, when he ran for Senate in 1972, Domenici became the first Republican elected from his home state in nearly four decades. By the time he retired, he did so as the longest-serving senator in New Mexico history.”

Born in Albuquerque, the son of Italian immigrants, Domenici worked in his father’s grocery business before going to the University of New Mexico. He pitched for the Albuquerque Dukes, then the farm club for the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

Domenici taught high school mathematics before earning a law degree. He served as mayor of Albuquerque before his election to the Senate.

Domenici and his wife had two sons and six daughters. During the 1970s, Domenici fathered a son out of wedlock, Adam Laxalt, with a Republican staffer and lobbyist. The relationship was revealed in 2013. Laxalt is now Nevada’s attorney general (Greenwire, Feb. 21, 2013).

When Domenici retired from the Senate in 2009, citing a degenerative neurological condition, McConnell applauded his colleague’s work on nuclear power, as well as renewables and oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The undisputed leader on energy issues in the Senate for nearly four decades, Pete saw the need to secure America’s energy future before it was cool, even writing a book on the promise of nuclear energy,” McConnell said.