Obama’s Commerce nominee comes with green past

Amanda Carey Contributor
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President Obama’s nominee for Commerce secretary, John Bryson, is good news for the environmental community and his nomination could foreshadow a renewed White House push for cap and trade.

Bryson has a long history in the environmental community. He was one of the original co-founders of the Natural Resources Defense Council. From 1976 6o 1979, Bryson was chairman of the California State Water Resources Control Board. Then, from 1979 to 1982, he was president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

After that, Bryson led the electric utility company Edison International, until his retirement in 2008. He was at the helm of the company when an energy crisis struck the state of California from 2000-2003. The crisis not only forced competitor PG&E into bankruptcy, it created a slew of political troubles for then-Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

Bryson was also present during the 2006 global warming meeting between then-Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two leaders signed a deal to agree to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global warming.

During the time he was at Edison, Bryson became a leading proponent of alternative energy, environmental regulations and more specifically, cap and trade. The year before Bryson ended his tenure at Edison, the company spent $1.5 million lobbying for emissions-reducing legislation.

In 2004, for example, he called for a cap and trade system, saying “Long-term, a reasonable and balanced cap and trade system for reducing carbon dioxide emissions could be adopted once new carbon dioxide removal technology has been developed and becomes commercially available.”

Even after he left Edison, Bryson continued to push for a cap and trade system. In 2009, when the House passed a bill that would have established such a system, he said, “I regard it as incredibly important that the United States comes forth in this year with federal climate change legislation as a foundation for moving ahead.”

“I think we in the U.S. have an obligation to assist in significant ways in providing leadership in this community of nations that you represent and addressing energy and climate change,” he added.

The bill never passed the Senate.

While the Obama administration views Bryson’s environmental track record as an asset, lawmakers on the right are already expressing criticism over his green past.

House oversight committee chair Darrell Issa of California blasted the nomination, calling Bryson a “green evangelist.”

“With gas prices at nearly four dollars a gallon, it’s certainly eye-catching that President Obama has nominated a founder of an organization that opposes efforts to increase domestic oil production to serve as the nation’s key advocate for our economic interest,” said Issa in a statement.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe of California  said of the nomination: “It is understandable that President Obama would select John Bryson as his nominee: he is a founder of a radical environmental organization and a member of a United Nations advisory group on climate change.”

Bryson also happens to serve on the board of directors of Boeing, a fact that will undoubtedly be discussed during his confirmation hearing given the current lawsuit from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the company’s decision to build a plant in Charleston, S.C.

Kevin Bishop, spokesperson for South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, told The Daily Caller that, “In light of the NLRB’s unprecedented complaint against Boeing, one would expect that Mr. Bryson’s service on the company’s Board of Directors when they created the second 787 assembly line in South Carolina, will be discussed at-length during confirmation.”