This week, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced his intent to replace Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) as chair of the House Energy Commerce & Committee, which has jurisdiction over global warming legislation. On Thursday, Dingell told WJR Radio’s Frank Beckmann that Waxman is an “anti-manufacturing left-wing Democrat” with a “serious lack of understanding of people in the auto industry and manufacturing generally.”
Representatives of major greenhouse gas-emitting industries have also recoiled at the prospect of Waxman being in charge instead of Dingell.
R. Bruce Josten, the top lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “took issue with the idea of a Waxman-led committee given the Californian’s support for far more aggressive greenhouse emission limits compared with Dingell,” telling E&E News, “It’s scary, isn’t it?”
The Chamber’s public comments reinforce the anonymous “refining industry insider” who told E&E News “all hell will break loose legislatively” if Waxman won.
The coal lobby has also weighed in on this dispute. Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, told Bloomberg News that Waxman likely would be “a very slow learner on the importance of coal for affordable energy. It would have been problematic in the best of times to have Mr. Waxman’s views prevail.”
Climate Progress’s Joe Romm responds, “If actually trying to prevent catastrophic global warming is ‘scary’ then all I can say is ‘Boo!‘”
UPDATE: Josten and Popovich are the top figures in the Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth, the front group formed in 2001 to promote the Cheney energy bill.
UPDATE 2: In 2006, the New Republic’s Bradford Plumer wrote this review of Dingell’s impact on clean-air legislation during his 50-year tenure:
For most of the 1980s, Congress was unable to pass legislation updating the Clean Air Act–including, crucially, taking action on acid rain–in large part because Dingell kept the bill bottled up in committee. “John Dingell is the number-one reason why we haven’t had a floor vote on clean air for the last ten years,” one frustrated observer told the Boston Globe. Environmentalists all but declared him public enemy number one, nicknaming him “Tailpipe Johnny” and “Dirty Dingell.”
It was only in 1990, when the prevailing winds in Congress had shifted and Dingell realized that clean-air regulations were going to pass with or without him, that he relented and sponsored a bill himself. But he managed to remove new restrictions on tailpipe emissions, beat back a proposed 40 percent increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars, and killed an amendment requiring that one million “ultra-clean” vehicles be produced a year in the coming decade. That was enough for the auto industry to declare victory. “We are very grateful for the work he has done,” said Thomas Hanna, then-president of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association. “We think the bill is tough enough and it would be tougher without him.”
Two years later, Dingell forced his fellow committeeman Henry Waxman–also the ranking member of the House Committee on Government Reform and Dingell’s chief antagonist during the clean-air debates–to back off on a global-warming bill that would have required that the United States stabilize carbon emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. In an angry five-page letter to Dingell, Waxman denounced those who “reflexively oppose new environmental legislation.” Recently, Waxman has pledged to push forward once more with aggressive climate-change legislation, and the old rivalry between the two prominent House Democrats is bound to resurface. In an interview with Environment & Energy Daily earlier this year, Dingell said of Waxman’s newest bill, which has 90 co-sponsors and gives the EPA increased authority to regulate carbon emissions, “I have reason to believe it’s on the extreme side.”