By Emily Holden
July 6, 2014 at 11:53 am ET
As an old Washington adage goes, energy politics are often more about location than partisanship. The theme plays out year after year as Democratic lawmakers from fossil-fuel producing districts join Republicans on oil and gas issues and GOP members support growing renewable energy industries back home.
Having more energy influencers in D.C., from prime committee spots to agency leadership positions, can be key to advancing specific state priorities and getting funding for projects.
A Morning Consult analysis of energy policymakers reveals that California, Illinois, Texas, Ohio and Washington have the greatest representation in the capital. We looked at congressional leaders and members of energy committees and appropriations subcommittees, as well as top spots at federal agencies, including the Energy Department, Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
To be fair, having several members on a congressional committee may not be as valuable as having a chairman or department head from your state. Texas, for example, has five legislators on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Massachusetts has no representation on the Senate or House energy panels, but it does have an Energy Department secretary, EPA administrator and acting FERC chairman in D.C.
Massachusetts is much smaller than Texas and doesn’t have as long an energy wishlist. It also doesn’t have as many powerful corporations helping it lobby on top issues. Big oil and gas companies in Texas are pushing for oil and natural gas exports and quicker infrastructure approvals, just to name a few.
But states also sometimes band together to demonstrate their clout. For example, New England senators urged the administration to make Massachusetts native Cheryl LaFleur’s temporary FERC chairman post permanent. Committee leaders and the administration recently reached a deal to let LaFleur serve for nine more months before Bay is elevated and she becomes a commissioner again.
Just having more representatives in Washington—even if they aren’t necessarily writing the legislation at hand—can help secure resources. Appropriators that worked out a deal on the Water Resources Development Act, for example, tucked away funding for large ports in some of the states with the most energy representation, including California, Texas and Louisiana.
States also benefit from having representatives in important leadership positions that don’t relate primarily to energy. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, for example, has used his influence to redirect a nuclear waste storage site away from his home state and push to appoint a FERC chairman from his region. And Kentucky’s coal industry has been a major issue in Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign.
On the other hand, party priorities and political ideals can sometimes trump specific interests of home-state industries. Reporters were quick to point out that the new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy might be from a wind-heavy district in California but he will likely oppose extending the wind production tax credit.
Emily Holden previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering energy and climate change.