Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)In my depressing-ass post yesterday, I noted that Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) departure from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) would leave Richard Burr (R-N.C.) as the ranking Republican. Burr, I said, “seems unobjectionable.”

It has been pointed out by certain interested parties that despair is no excuse for abandoning standards altogether. As it happens, there is plenty about Burr’s record to which one might reasonably object. He has voted against removing subsidies for oil companies, against extending tax credits for renewables and efficiency, and for an amendment that would have prohibited any energy policy that would lead to an “increase in the costs of producing, generating or consuming energy.”

In 2008, he said that deep-sea oil drilling “uses today’s technology, which assures us that the possibility of a catastrophe is minimized greatly from the past.” After the Gulf oil spill, he voted against an increase in the oil-spill liability tax. He still supports drilling off the North Carolina coast. He’s petitioned the EPA not to regulate coal ash as hazardous waste. Says Wikipedia:

Burr has generally received low ratings from environmental-protection organizations. In 2007-2008, for example, he received a rating of 0% from Environment America, 12% from the League of Conservation Voters, and 29% from Republicans for Environmental Protection.

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In other words, he’s a conservative Republican. He came into the House with Newt Gingrich’s class of ’94 and was hand-picked by Karl Rove to run for the Senate in 2004. He has voted with his party 94 percent of the time. According to National Journal, he’s the seventh most conservative member of the Senate (Murkowski is 35th) and one of its top 10 recipients of oil and gas money. His approach in the ENR Committee would almost certainly be more rigid and ideological than Murkowski’s. And if Republicans take the Senate — which political guru Charlie Cook has officially deemed “plausible” — Burr will be the committee chair. Green groups find that prospect objectionable, to say the least. Here’s their take:

All that Burr really has to recommend him to greens is a somewhat muted, professorial manner. He’s not a preening know-nothing like John Cornyn (R-Texas) or Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Ironically, it’s just that lack of theatrics that has left him vulnerable — he’s not very well known in his state, even after 16 years of service. His job approval ratings are in the tank. He has only a narrow lead over his Democratic challenger, Elaine Marshall (who calls climate change “the most pressing environmental and national security issue facing us today”).

The president of Public Policy Polling calls Burr “the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country.” He still has a huge money advantage, but prognosticators say his race could be one the rare occasion in a brutally anti-incumbent year when a Senate seat flips from red to blue rather than vice versa.

Anyway, thought I should clear that up!

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