In a move that heartens enviros, Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.), the new chair of the Senate Environment Committee, has come out against legislative riders, which have been used to undermine environmental protections in recent years. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Smith wrote that he intends to oppose most environmental riders, which lawmakers attach to must-pass funding bills in order to push through policy changes without thorough debate. Enviros were worried that Smith would prove to be an enemy of the environment when he took the top spot on the environment committee following the October death of Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.), but they’ve been encouraged by his recent comments supporting Everglades restoration, regulation of coal-burning power plants, and protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling. “So far, he has been a tremendous surprise,” said Sierra Club political director Dan Weiss.

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