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Senate Panel OKs 3 Nominations; Stabenow Opposes Gas Export Pick

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday voted out to the Senate floor nominations for high-ranking Department of Energy (DOE) and  Interior Department offices.

By voice vote, the committee approved the nominations of Christopher Smith, who currently is assistant secretary for oil and natural gas at DOE, for assistant secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy Office); Steven P. Croley  to be general counsel at DOE; and Esther P. Kia'aina for assistant secretary for Insular Areas at the Interior Department.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) voted "no" on Smith's nomination, saying she was not yet satisfied with Smith's answers to her questions. In his new post, if confirmed by the Senate, Smith will oversee the Obama administration's permitting process for natural gas exports.

"I think it's important to proceed carefully on exports," Stabenow said. But, she quickly added, "I'm not opposed to exports." She noted that the DOE has approved five export permits so far, four of which came this year.

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