Congressional Quarterly Online reported last week:

The two senior House Democrats with jurisdiction over energy and telecommunications policies could swap gavels in the 111th Congress, with potentially dramatic implications for the shape of climate change legislation expected next year.

Since 2007, Rick Boucher of Virginia, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s fourth-ranking Democrat, has led the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, which has taken the lead role in crafting legislation to address global warming.

But Boucher said in an interview Tuesday that he expects Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, No. 3 among committee Democrats in seniority, to bid for the subcommittee chairmanship. Boucher said he would “respect that decision” and stake his own claim for chairmanship of Markey’s Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

“I’m awaiting his decision,” Boucher said. Markey has not yet made up his mind, a spokesman said.

This would be almost as big a deal as Waxman defeating Dingell for committee chair. Just as Dingell-Boucher co-authored a House climate bill last session, one would expect that if this change occurs, Waxman and Markey would co-author a House Bill in this session. And it certainly wouldn’t be as lame (see “Q: Does Dingell-Boucher have meaningful auctioning of CO2 permits before 2026?“).

The story continues:

A move by Markey to leadership of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee would represent a significant philosophical shift in the leadership of a panel charged with writing the climate legislation that House leaders and the Obama administration want to pass this year.

Boucher, who hails from a coal-rich corner of Virginia, worked with recently ousted Energy and Commerce Chairman John D. Dingell, D-Mich., a champion of his state’s ailing auto industry, to produce a draft global warming bill that some environmentalists criticized as too soft on industry.

Markey, however, is a leading liberal in his caucus and is closely aligned with environmentalists. He also is strongly allied with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who named him chairman of a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming in the 110th Congress, and with the new Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.

Markey introduced his own climate bill (HR 6186) in June, which would cap greenhouse gas emissions at 85 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, a target far more aggressive than Boucher and Dingell proposed in their draft.

Markey has long been the top Democrat on the telecommunications subcommittee and may have some reluctance about giving up that prominent post.

But with President-elect Barack Obama signaling that a major global warming bill will be among his top priorities this year, Markey may find the prospect of taking a lead role in writing the legislation. His select committee has held dozens of hearings on a wide range of climate and energy issues, but lacks any legislative authority.

I can’t see the point in keeping the Select committee if Markey switches positions. But in any case, the switch itself is what matters. It would be a good way to start the new year.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.