Players to watch: Energy

Welcome to The Hill’s Players to Watch special report for fall 2014.

The lawmakers, administration officials and power brokers listed here will play enormous roles in the policies and politics that take place over the next several months.

There are many big questions facing the White House and the divided Congress: Will lawmakers agree on a government funding bill that averts another shutdown? Will the controversial Export-Import Bank be reauthorized? Which party will control the Senate in 2015? How will the White House exert its administrative power? Will the administration scrap the ObamaCare employer mandate? What steps will be taken to counter the rise of the Islamic
State in Iraq and Syria, and what will Congress’s role be?

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Our reporters and editors have selected the most important people among the thousands who are working on this autumn’s hot issues. The decisions made by these newsmakers will affect the U.S. in many ways, both domestically and abroad.

The list of players includes leadership lawmakers, committee chairmen, Cabinet officials, regulators, foreign leaders and campaign operatives.

Karen Harbert, President, the Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy

Harbert will be working hard this fall to help states and business leaders fight the Environmental Protection Agency’s  climate rule.

With EPA chief Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthy Trump ignores science at our peril Green groups push for environmental protections in stimulus package Overnight Energy: Trump budget slashes EPA funding | International hunting council disbands amid lawsuit | Bill targets single-use plastics MORE continuing her public push to rally support for the rule, the Chamber will be pushing back.

“Our focus is going to be trying to really get through the complex nature of the formulas that EPA has put together and try and help the states understand what this means for how they would have to transform their electricity sector,” Harbert said.

On the business side, she and her staff will work to “broaden the debate to include the stakeholders who are going to be very much affected,” she added. The Chamber says that nearly every business in the country will be hit as energy bills spike.

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The climate rule won’t be the only issue on her agenda, as Harbert will also lobby for policies that make exporting energy easier, including natural gas, crude oil and coal, she said.

—Timothy Cama

Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuA decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ MORE (D-La.)

Landrieu is a Democrat who goes against the grain when it comes to energy issues, and she’s riding on that fact to help her win reelection in November.

She is pro-Keystone XL oil pipeline and backs natural gas and crude oil exports, the expansion of offshore and onshore drilling and more. 

And, she holds a key seat for Democrats in the red state of Louisiana.

Her position as chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee could be crucial to her reelection, allowing her to determine the agenda and push through legislation important to Louisiana. 

At the same time, it could hurt her if she hasn’t proven to constituents in her short tenure as chairwoman that she wields enough influence among Democrats. 

—Laura Barron-Lopez

Gina McCarthy, EPA adminstrator

The Environmental Protection Agency chief has served as the face of the Obama administration’s climate change policies — especially its June proposal to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants — and she’ll keep the conversation going throughout the fall.

Tom Reynolds, McCarthy’s top spokesman, said she’ll focus her public events on the economic costs of inaction on climate change and the benefits of investing in low-carbon energy.

“The president has talked often about creating a clean energy economy, and the administrator’s going to spend a lot of time explaining how a strong economy and a clean environment go hand in hand,” Reynolds said.

Another priority for McCarthy will be the Waters of the United States rule, proposed to redefine the federal government’s jurisdiction over lakes and streams. She will push the rule as a significant way to protect water quality.

—Timothy Cama

Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes McConnell: Pelosi trying to 'jam' Senate on fourth coronavirus relief bill On The Money: House Dems push huge jobs project in wake of coronavirus | Trump leans on businesses in virus response | Lawmakers press IRS to get relief checks to seniors MORE (R-Ky.)

McConnell has made it a focus of his current term to criticize Obama administration energy policies that he sees as a “war on coal.” With McConnell facing a tough reelection fight, those coal policies are certain to stay front and center.

McConnell has taken the lead in the Senate in opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent climate rule that Republicans say would decimate the coal industry.

He and his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, have fought nonstop over who would better represent Kentucky and its coal-focused economy. 

Grimes has tried to hit back at McConnell by arguing that those tougher rules on coal happened under his watch, and by backing the Keystone XL pipeline.

—Timothy Cama

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Tom Steyer, founder of Nextgen Climate

Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager turned climate activist, flew onto the political scene last year, promising to turn the issue of man-made climate change into a factor in the 2014 elections.

While Steyer has had some difficulty attracting outside wealthy donors to back his climate change movement, he says he isn’t worried.

Still, critics and supporters of Steyer’s political machine, NextGen Climate, will be looking to this year’s election to see if the billionaire can deliver and show that voters want climate-friendly candidates.

To hear one of his top advisers, Chris Lehane, tell it, Steyer made a decision to take “individual responsibility” for his past fossil fuel investments by becoming a climate change activist.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to, are you going to do right by your kids,” Lehane said of Steyer’s decision. “There’s a reason the organization is called Next Generation.” 

—Laura Barron-Lopez