Senate sets hearings for Energy, Interior, EPA nominees

US Senate committees have scheduled confirmation hearings for nominees who will guide energy policy during the administration of President-elect George W. Bush.

At 9 a.m. on Jan. 18 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will interview former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), Bush's nominee for Energy Secretary.

Abraham has never worked in or with the energy industry, but Washington lobbyists predict that that won't deter the Senate from confirming a recent colleague.

On the same day, at 2 p.m., the Senate energy panel will hold a hearing for former Colorado Atty. Gen. Gale Norton, named to become the Interior Secretary. If Abraham's hearing runs long, Norton's will be rescheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 19.

Industry observers said Norton's confirmation may be more contentious. They said the Senate as a whole will consider her pro-development views to be controversial, although the energy panel�which is weighted with western-state senators�will welcome them.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will chair the Senate energy committee hearings. Control of the Senate has passed briefly to the Democratic Party.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing at 9 a.m. Jan. 16 for New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, selected to be Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

Lobbyists say the philosophies of senators on the committee are generally more protective of the environment than Whitman's, but confirmation is likely anyway. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will preside.

The full Senate is expected to vote on all three nominations later this month.

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission said it supports the Whitman and Abraham nominations.

Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, IOGCC chairman, said, "The governors of IOGCC are excited about the appointment of a fellow governor as the head of EPA. As governor of New Jersey, Gov. Whitman saw firsthand how effectively states regulate their environment and how deeply committed states are to environmental protection. She will appreciate the extensive environmental record of the petroleum-producing states."

IOGCC Executive Director Christine Hansen said of Abraham's "extensive federal background has prepared him for this position.

"The Bush administration will face new challenges with the emerging importance of natural gas in our nation's energy future. DOE will play a central leadership role in developing national energy policy and in funding and promoting research and development that encourages the full recovery of domestic natural gas and oil resources."

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