Muckraker: Grist on Politics

• Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is expected to be named the new chair of the energy subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, according to a press release from her office.

• First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by the Department of Interior on Monday to visit with Secretary Ken Salazar and employees, and heralded the important role they’ll play in energy and environmental policy. “You are at the center of this administration’s highest priorities: securing America’s energy future — Barack has talked about it time and time again — protecting our natural environment, and using the natural resources, again, as responsibly as we can,” she said. “These aren’t only vital for the survival of our planet as we work to combat climate change, but also incredibly important to strengthen our economy and the well-being of our families. At a time when so many Americans are out of work, sound energy and environmental policies are going to help create thousands of jobs through the economic recovery and reinvestment plan that Barack is out there promoting today.”

• Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, said at an energy industry gathering in Houston on Monday that he sees a future for both coal and natural gas drilling. “I think we can find areas of the Outer Continental Shelf that are acceptable for drilling, but we need to protect our most sensitive areas,” Markey said, though he didn’t identify specific areas. Coal could play a significant role in the country’s electric portfolio, too, he said, but added, “We have to find a way to sequester carbon dioxide so coal can continue to be part of our mix.” Markey will preside over his first subcommittee meeting this Thursday, on the subject of the climate crisis.

• The Environmental Protection Agency has extended for three months the period before a controversial, 11th-hour Bush administration rule on New Source Review would go into effect. The EPA said on Tuesday that “to allow further review” of the change, they are extending the effective date of the Bush administration’s “aggregation” rule to May 18, 2009. The Bush-era rules, issued on January 12, revised the agency’s policy on “aggregation” to allow emitting facilities and permitting authorities to group emissions from all plant modifications as long as the projects are related. The EPA is also taking a look at the decision to allow major emitters to use “flexible air permits” when they make changes at facilities without further review and approval from the permitting authorities. More on NSR here.

• An international network of 15 environmental groups has launched a campaign to urge President Barack Obama to reject proposals from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to protect Alberta’s tar sands from greenhouse gas regulation. Obama is visiting with Harper on February 19, and they’re likely to discuss a North American agreement on global warming and energy. They’re online at Obama2Canada.org.