House Natural Resources Committee chairman announces retirement

US House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) announced he will retire at yearend. “Last Friday, I celebrated my 73rd birthday and while I have the ability and seniority to continue serving Central Washington, it is time for the voters to choose a new person with new energy to represent them,” he told reporters in Pasco, Wash.

His Feb. 13 announcement eclipsed another congressional energy leadership transition as Sen. Ronald L. Wyden (D-Wash.) relinquished the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairmanship to succeed Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who was appointed US Ambassador to Japan, as Finance Committee chairman.

Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) took the Energy and Natural Resources Committee helm on Feb. 12, pledging to emphasize policies that support US oil and gas production and expand transmission systems from producers to refiners and other markets.

As he accepted his new assignment, Wyden said he planned to meet with other Finance Committee members on both sides of the aisle to, among other things, “find the right paths forward on reforming the tax code.”

Tax reform matters to the oil and gas industry since Baucus, when he made his most recent proposal late in 2013, called for repealing federal provisions producers consider essential to their operations. The Obama administration annually calls for similar repeals when it submits its federal budget request.

Wyden, who historically has reached across the aisle to get things done, said he would continue to do so. “Principled bipartisanship is an opportunity to solve problems that affect all Americans through policies that reflect each party’s bedrock beliefs,” he maintained on Feb. 14. “When done right, this process takes the best ideas from every side and drops the ideology that results in gridlock.”

Impact on committee

Hastings’s decision leaves him free to not worry about his reelection and concentrate on issues in Congress, including the Natural Resources Committee, where he has led efforts to pass bills which took a more aggressive approach to oil and gas development on federally managed acreage than the Obama administration’s more deliberate strategy.

It also creates the potential for significantly more fireworks from the committee’s GOP leadership once he leaves. Don Young (R-Alas.), the second ranking Republican, already has been chairman and is not eligible to do so again. That puts Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) next in line, followed by Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who chairs the committee’s Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee, and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who chairs the Energy and Minerals Resources Subcommittee.

Oil and gas associations, meanwhile, welcomed Landrieu’s arrival in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s chair. “Sen. Landrieu has been a very strong supporter of our domestic energy industry,” America’s Natural Gas Alliance Pres. Martin J. Durbin said. “We look forward to working with her as she leads the committee through discussions on how to affordably and reliably power our nation’s growing energy demands.”

American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said Landrieu becomes chairman at a critical moment for US energy policy. “With her strong support, the people of Louisiana have played a major role in America’s energy revolution, and her deep understanding of energy issues will continue to serve her well as chairman.”

He said Wyden, her predecessor, “has shown a keen interest in emerging energy issues, and we will continue to engage in a constructive dialogue with him in his newest role,” adding, “America is in the midst of an energy revolution that is driving job creation, but higher taxes on energy could hurt production, cost jobs, and reduce revenue to the government.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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