With the support of almost 200 environmental groups that signed onto a letter promoted by the Center for Biological Diversity, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) was recently elected by the Democratic caucus to replace Rep. Peter DeFazio on the House Committee on Natural Resources.
The groups also included WildEarth Guardians, Keystone Prairie Dogs and the Sierra Club.
Grijalva strongly supports mining law reform and is an advocate for the environment. He is being called the next Henry Waxman, who was a leader for climate change action during his time in Congress, who will retire at the end of the year. The Arizona congressman was a leading candidate for Secretary of Interior under President Barack Obama, but the position went to ex-rancher Sen. Ken Salazar instead, a controversial choice not supported by many environmentalists.
“I think [Grijalva] will be the new Henry Waxman in that he really prioritizes environmental protection, fighting climate change,” said Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s lands protection program. “Especially how it affects public health — I think he really is like Waxman in that regard.”
According to a statement from the Center, Grijalva has a long congressional history of leadership in the conservation of US natural resources as a public trust. He is currently the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus.
Grijalva will have his hands full, along with the dwindling number of environmental stewards on Capitol Hill as the Environmental Protection Agency, as the newly Republican controlled Senate and House Republicans ramp up their plans to cripple the agency’s regulatory power.
“We’re not going in there just to be zealots and throw bombs, but we are going to defend the things that we think are important,” Grijalva said in an interview yesterday, ticking off climate change regulation and efforts to expand oil drilling on public lands as looming showdowns. “I just think that we need to fight in the arena of public opinion a lot more effectively than we have in the past.”
Grijalva was also re-elected as co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which represents the left flank of the Democratic Party, which has called for imposition of a carbon tax, among other priorities.
“I do think that Raúl does represent the more honest wing of the Democratic Party,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, a liberal environmental group that campaigned for Grijalva to win the Resources spot. “I think for too long, Democrats have tried to be Republican-lite, and that doesn’t work too well.”
Environmentalists applaud Grijalva’s new position to help safeguard America’s natural resources during one of the most tumultuous and vitriolic times in the US Congress.