Landrieu gets to work swinging that Energy Committee gavel
posted at 6:01 pm on March 29, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
Louisiana is second only to Texas in both natural-gas production and refining capacity, with the Haynesville and Fayetteville shale gas plays contributing largely to the state’s economy that also serves as the hub of a nexus of a whole bunch of pipelines. In a nutshell, energy is pretty dang important in the Gulf state, and super-vulnerable Senate Democrat Mary Landrieu has been gunning for the gavel of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the better to heighten her pro-oil and gas profile ahead of her reelection campaign. With both Big Oil’s donation dollars and her red state’s voters on the line, she wasted no time getting to work this week, via the WSJ:
“One of the reasons I’m running again is to chair this committee, because I’ve—by God’s grace—lasted long enough to do it,” Ms. Landrieu, the new head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel, told a crowd of more than 300 assembled in Lake Charles for the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting. …
Ms. Landrieu’s challenge, party strategists say, will be to wield the gavel in a way that shows she can help Louisiana and its energy industry while distancing herself from her party, which is viewed negatively by many of the independent and Republican voters Ms. Landrieu must win to keep her seat. …
For her committee’s first hearing, this past week, Ms. Landrieu focused on expanding natural-gas exports, now a top geopolitical issue in light of the Ukraine crisis. Three proposed export projects that the Obama administration has conditionally approved, and the only one with final approval, are located in Louisiana.
Which is all something of a conundrum for the Obama administration. No way are Landrieu and the handful of her fellow red-state, pro-energy, and electorally vulnerable colleagues (Pryor, Begich, Udall) going to come out swinging in favor of any of the even milquetoast climate-change regulations and executive actions, never mind legislation, with which the Obama administration is trying to prove their worth to well-monied and well-organized cadre of eco-radical Democratic donors that give progressive campaigns so much cash. These vulnerable Democrats could definitely use the help from the administration approving more natural-gas exports approvals and an OK on the Keystone XL pipeline, but they can’t come off as too antagonistic toward the green lobby, either. Such a dilemma. Via the National Journal:
But that hasn’t convinced the environmental lobby’s heavy hitters to cut checks for Landrieu. In the past year, only one environmental organization has donated to her campaign. The Baton Rouge-based Center for Coastal Conservation gave Landrieu a $2,500 nod, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense Fund have handed over a combined contribution of exactly nothing. …
“Landrieu puts the environmental community in a difficult situation,” Schreiber said. “She’s been awful on climate change and she’s quite responsive to the oil and gas industry. And she’s chair of the Energy Committee. That makes things complicated.” …
The oil and gas industry is the second-largest contributor to Landrieu’s campaign committee and leadership PAC combined. The industry has also done more to give the senator a boost than her Republican challenger. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Landrieu’s campaign has so far raised close to $9.5 million with a cool $564,350 coming from the oil and gas industry.
Not that Landrieu necessarily wants the greens’ money — I doubt having the Sierra Club on the list of her major campaign donors would help her cultivate the image she’s going for — but this makes the Obama administration’s Keystone XL pipeline decision (or lack thereof) all the more pivotal in the coming months.
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