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Barack Obama has entrusted his energy and climate agenda to a team led by Carol M. Browner, who, in mid-December, was named to the new post of White House coordinator for energy and climate. Browner, the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator under the Clinton administration, will work with Steven Chu, the new head of the Energy Department, and Ken Salazar, the new Interior Secretary.
The Democratic White House will work with a Congress that has 56 Democrats (57 if Al Franken’s win in Minnesota is certified), and two Independents who caucus with Democrats, in the Senate and 256 in the House. That’s a shift from the prior Congress, which had essentially nine fewer Democrats in the Senate and 21 fewer in the House, and it means that proposed legislation is likely to move much faster than it has in recent years, says Karen Penafiel, vice president of advocacy for BOMA. Although the Democrats don’t officially have the 60 votes needed to break a delaying tactic in the Senate known as a filibuster, a handful of Republicans will cross party lines and eliminate stalemates in the senior chamber, she says.
“That, combined with (Rep. Henry) Waxman taking over the Energy Committee, someone who is far more liberal than (former chairman Rep. John) Dingell, some of the stuff will have legs and see action quickly,” Penafiel says. “That means we have much less time to get in and make our points, review items and analyze the good, the bad and the possibility of unintended consequences of policies.”
In addition to Browner, Chu, Salazar and Waxman, Penafiel recommends that facility executives follow the moves of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Barbara Boxer, both Democrats from California. Boxer was a proponent of the Warner-Lieberman bill, cap and trade legislation that was introduced in the Senate last year but which failed to make it through the chamber.
Desiree J. Hanford, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, is a freelance writer who spent 10 years as a reporter for Dow Jones. She is a former assistant editor for Building Operating Management.
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