Senator Vitter moves into new Senate role - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Senator Vitter moves into new Senate role

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WASHINGTON, D.C., (KNOE 8 News) - Sen. David Vitter's new role as top Republican on a key environment committee could benefit Louisiana as Congress considers important energy measures this year, according to environmentalists, oil industry officials and others.

Vitter became the top GOP member of the Environment and Public Works Committee this month. His predecessor, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, stepped down after his six-year term as ranking Republican expired.

"It's important to have Vitter there to try to speak up for Louisiana's interest,'' said Pearson Cross, head of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. "It's not a bad spot for him to be, as much as Louisiana interacts with the Army Corps of Engineers and water resources development.''

The committee assignment is the highest post the two-term senator has held. Vitter also served in the House from 1999 to 2004.

At the top of the committee's agenda is a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes water projects, flood protection, navigation programs and other projects. Projects administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are critical to commerce and economic development in many communities, including coastal states.

Vitter said he's also pushing to include legislation proposed by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, to send more money from the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to dredging and maintenance projects in Louisiana and elsewhere. Beyond the legislation, Vitter said he will also look to fight administration efforts to impose tougher clean air and water regulations.

"It's important to make sure that's done based on sound science and real facts so that over-regulation, which can hurt jobs and a lot industries, doesn't happen,'' Vitter said. "Louisiana has a number of industries that are directly related to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations. ''

Vitter, a frequent critic of the EPA, said he's worried the agency has based its regulations on "political ideology or tabloid science versus real, sound, peer-reviewed science.'' 

Vitter said he's also concerned about potential regulations on hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas from shale formations.

"That's under attack from the left and I'm concerned that the EPA and other federal agencies may again, by administrative fiat, try to over-regulate or even shut down that activity,'' he said.

Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, called Vitter's new committee post "a very good thing for Louisiana.''

He noted that Louisiana has 18 refineries and a significant petrochemical industry, and is one of the largest producers of natural gas in the country. Regulations imposed by the EPA and other federal agencies have a major impact on those industries, he said.

"It's a good thing that Sen. Vitter is on board, because he has a good understanding of our industry and not just oil and gas, but petrochemical and the refining industry,'' Briggs said.

Macaluso said he hopes Vitter and other lawmakers will work to better clarify construction and funding of projects under the 2007 Water Resources Development Act.

In addition to the Environment and Public Works Committee, Vitter will continue to serve on the Armed Services Committee, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

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