Southeastern Section–56th Annual Meeting (29–30 March 2007)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


MCCURDY, Karen M., Department of Political Science, Georgia Southern Univ, P.O. Box 8101, 2287 Carroll Building, Statesboro, GA 30460,

The 2006 United States congressional elections produced a number of potential conditions for policy change in the House Resources and Senate Environment and Public Works Committees. The defeat of chairman Richard Pombo (R, California 11th District) along with the Republican Party loss of the majority in the House of Representatives places Nick Rahall (D, West Virginia 3rd District) in line to become chair of Resources. Rahall is the first easterner to assume the chairmanship since 1977, and is the first chairman representing a coal district since at least the end of World War II. A policy potential exists to alter coal policy initiated from the House of Representatives. A potential for policy change is also present in the Senate as Barbara Boxer (D, California), the incoming chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, intends to make global warming the key issue on the committee's agenda. Potential for initiating a new public policy template for coal is high, particularly since the former chairman, James Inhofe (R, Oklahoma) was the primary and vocal skeptic in the 109th Congress of global warming in particular and science in general.

Committee leaders always use their vast political power in the policy process to elevate their own policy preferences to the top of the agenda. Wayne Aspinall (D, Colorado) emphasized western water projects, Morris Udall (D, Arizona) the Central Arizona Project and Wilderness Area protection, Don Young (R, Alaska) and Richard Pombo championed resource exploitation in general and particularly favored approving petroleum exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Boxer has announced her global warming initiatives, and considering past policy actions, Rahall may highlight coal policy. Committee membership has shifted to eastern states and environmental protection among the Democrats in both the Senate and House. A seniority differential exists between the majority and minority party in both chambers.

Changes in the chairmanship of both the House and Senate committees, representation shifts to eastern states, and seniority differentials bringing the policy interests of energy consuming constituents a greater voice in the policy making arena increase the likelihood of a major innovation in coal policy being initiated in the next Congress.