Dorgan’s Next Step: Coal Advocate?
Unlike Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who was getting clobbered in his bid for reelection this year, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) had a great shot of retaining the upper-chamber seat that he’s held for the past 17 years. (Indeed, his most competitive challenger, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R), hadn’t even committed to entering the race before yesterday, when Dorgan announced his intent to retire at the end of this year.)
So, for a moment, let’s take Dorgan at his word when he says that his decision was indeed driven by a desire to pursue other things, like ”some teaching” and working on “energy policy in the private sector.”
The latter is an interesting focus, because Dorgan, while a progressive on a host of issues — things as diverse as health care and Cuba policy — is also one of the most conservative Democrats when it comes to energy policy and climate change. That conservatism was on display just a few months back, when Dorgan joined 13 other Senate Democrats in urging leadership to grant coal-buring power plants more free-polluting permits under the upper chamber’s climate change bill.
The lawmakers argued that the current formula, which allots permits based half on emissions and half on sales, is unfair to the higher-emitting utilities (i.e., those that burn coal). They didn’t mention that their suggested change would also undermine the entire purpose of the bill, which is to encourage such high-emission facilities to move to cleaner fuel alternatives.
So when Dorgan says he’s now interested in private sector energy policy, does that mean he’ll continue the fight against the Demcrats’ climate change bill? If he goes to work for the coal industry, it can mean nothing else.
*UPDATE: Kate Sheppard, the environmental reporter at Mother Jones, also fears that Dorgan’s leanings will leave him protecting coal during the cap-and-trade debate. *