Vitter would become the committee’s ranking member if Republicans continue to be in the Senate minority. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the current ranking member, is term limited for that position under GOP seniority rules. If Republicans take the Senate majority, Inhofe would have the opportunity to be chairman.
Connaughton has been mentioned as a potential appointee for that position if GOP nominee Mitt Romney wins the presidency. But Vitter said Connaughton’s backing for instituting an international marine management program as well as cap-and-trade regulation were unacceptable.
"I would have very serious concerns with Jim Connaughton being named to any significant position," Vitter told Greenwire. "And if it were a Senate-confirmed position, I would expect to have to oppose his nomination."
The areas of disagreement Vitter cited — emissions limits, potential restriction of offshore drilling and green energy funding — reflect an increasingly uniform GOP energy platform that Romney also has embraced.
Vitter said he could not support Connaughton’s previous backing for cap-and-trade rules for various types of emissions.
He added that Connaughton’s sea proposal would have restricted production for energy firms and commercial fishing operations by creating marine safe-zones.
To the delight of conservationists and marine scientists, President Obama issued a 2010 executive order that could set Connaughton’s concept in motion. That effort will collect data and mapping resources to better understand activities at sea.