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Louisiana's Landrieu to Chair Senate Energy Committee

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been appointed as the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by the U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus and is expected to officially take the helm of the powerful committee following a formality vote by the full Senate Thursday.

"During the coming weeks and months, I will remain focused on moving an agenda forward that is inclusive, bipartisan and focused on the job creation that America needs and wants," Landrieu said following the caucus vote.

"Everything we do will be part of helping to build the middle class and expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs in the domestic energy sector. Increasing domestic energy production and fortifying and expanding the infrastructure that connects producers, refiners and consumers will help us achieve this goal.

Landrieu takes the helm after the committee's previous chairman, Ron Wyden (D-OR), moved over to take the post of chairman of the Senate Finance Committee vacated by Max Baucus, now the U.S. ambassador to China.

The change at the top of the Energy Committee could signal movement on some issues, at least within the committee. Wyden opposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, while Landrieu supports the project (see Daily GPI, March 4, 2013). Landrieu is also seen as more friendly to liquefied natural gas exports than was her predecessor (see Daily GPI, Feb. 11).

Landrieu and Lisa Murkowski (D-AK), the ranking Republican on the committee, have shown a willingness in the past to work together on energy legislation (see Daily GPI, March 20, 2013; Feb. 12, 2013). Last year the two, who represent major offshore oil and natural gas producing states, introduced legislation aimed at capturing a greater share of the revenues for coastal states.

The industry shouldn’t get too optimistic about success for legislation to push crude oil and natural gas exports or expand Atlantic offshore leasing, however. Democrats, who generally favor renewable over fossil energy, still hold a 53-45 majority in the Senate and it’s an election year.

The November elections could change the Senate leadership, and Landrieu herself is in the midst of a tough reelection campaign in Louisiana. She is opposed by two Republicans -- Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Rob Maness -- in a state that has a strong conservative faction outside of traditionally Democratic New Orleans.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity welcomed Landrieu's nomination, saying she has fought against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s "overreach in order to protect affordable, reliable fossil fuels and seeking commonsense solutions to use our most abundant resources, like coal, more efficiently and cleanly."

American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard said Landrieu's chairmanship comes "at a critical moment for U.S. energy policy."

"We look forward to working with Sen. Landrieu on smart policies that will strengthen American energy security and harness the full economic potential of domestic oil and natural gas production."

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