Energy, environmental interests set to battle

Energy and environmental interests are shoring up their lobbying teams as the climate change bill advances in the Senate.

The American Petroleum Institute, the trade group that represents the oil industry, hired Martin Durbin away from the American Chemistry Council to lead its lobbying efforts as executive vice president for government affairs. Durbin is a former Democratic aide in the Senate and House.

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API President and CEO Jack Gerard said Durbin’s hiring is part of a larger reorganization at the group to bring greater emphasis on advocacy. The details of the reorg are to be released next week.

API has also funded an Energy Citizens campaign to encourage oil and gas industry employees to lobby against climate legislation in Congress.

Meanwhile, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), a group formed this year to lobby for provisions in climate legislation that would encourage greater use of natural gas, has hired Regina Hopper as its president and CEO.

Hopper had been executive vice president of the United States Telecom Association. She will direct a budget that is expected to reach $80 million to lobby for the natural gas industry.

The alliance was too new to weigh in during the House climate change debate. But natural gas company executives are targeting the Senate bill. They believe the House version provides too much support for the coal industry, delaying a transition to more use of natural gas, which produces about half the carbon dioxide emissions as coal.

Since the House vote in June, ANGA has gone on something of a spending spree on K Street. The trade group has seven firms on retainer, including the Bockorny Group, DLA Piper and Wexler Walker Public Policy Associates. ANGA has spent $970,000 on lobbying this year.

Hopper replaced Rod Lowman, who remains a consultant for the group.

Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Defense Council on Friday announced it had filled two open positions on its lobbying team. Scott Slesinger is NRDC’s new legislative director. He had been vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Technology Council, which represents companies that recycle, destroy or dispose of hazardous waste. The legislative director position had been open since Karen Wayland left NRDC to join House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) staff.

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Franz Matzner is moving from NRDC’s general legislative office to take over lobbying duties at the group’s climate center. He replaces Michael Goo, who left to join the House.

This week, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed climate legislation despite a boycott by Republicans, who wanted more information on the measure’s potential costs.

The panel passed the bill 11-1, with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) the lone "no" vote.

But the bill still has a long way to go. There are six committees with some jurisdiction over climate and energy policies, including Baucus’s Finance Committee, which has been wrapped up with healthcare reform.

So far, only EPW and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee have marked up legislation.