According to media reports, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) is the front-runner to succeed Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee.

Upton, who has served as chairman since 2010, is required to step down because of term limits.

Other candidates reportedly under consideration for the post include Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the latter of whom was named E&C’s chairman emeritus in 2010.

The candidates will reportedly meet behind closed doors today with the House Republican Steering Committee and make individual presentations. Reports say the steering committee will then make a recommendation to the entire GOP conference for final selection on Friday.

Trump Administration ‘All Over The Place’

Mark Barron, an attorney with law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP, told NGI that the incoming Trump administration has made inconsistent public statements on energy policy.

“They’ve been all over the place,” Barron said Thursday. “We’ve had a real difficult time getting a sense of precisely what their statements are going to be.”

Case in point, Barron said the president-elect’s son, Donald Trump Jr., recently made statements in front of sportsman’s groups that some of the Obama administration’s rules “are reasonable.”

Barron represents the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America in a lawsuit against the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The industry groups argue that the BLM does not have the authority to enforce a rule governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on public and tribal lands. Barron also represents the WEA in another lawsuit against the BLM, for the latter’s failure to hold quarterly lease sales.

“It sounds like there’s an overall policy to have less regulation, generally,” Barron said. “And of course, most of my clients would welcome that. [But] I don’t think industry groups are taking great comfort that they know exactly what’s going to happen on Jan. 20 of next year.

Economics Before the Environment?

Barron said he thinks that under the next Republican-led Congress, there will be a general trend toward streamlining or limiting regulations. He also expects agencies like the BLM and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if they decide to engage in rulemaking, will need to put up a greater defense of their ideas in the future.

“There’s going to have to be some significant justification for [new rules],” Barron said. “I think they’re going to require the agencies to make economics a more significant component of their justification analysis. Under the [Obama] administration, environmental and conservation concerns, specifically, have been the number one criteria for review, with economics a secondary analytical criteria. I would expect to see economics elevated [under a Trump administration].”

That said, Barron said he doesn’t believe environmental concerns will ever go away entirely.

“Even though the incoming administration has expressed doubts about things like climate change, I think there is a moderate Republican base — particularly folks who will be running for re-election in 2018 — that is not going to be able to just deny, deny, deny [climate change]. But I do think there will be more equality [between economics and the environment] with these regulations than there is now.”