13 September 2002 20:09 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--A strong ally of the chemical and petroleum industries is in line to become the top Republican member and possibly chairman of a key Senate committee, congressional analysts said Friday.
The defeat earlier this week of Republican Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire by Republican primary voters puts Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma in position to become the Republican leader on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Inhofe would likely become chairman of the committee, replacing Senator James Jeffords (Independent-Vermont), if Republicans make a net gain of one seat in the November elections and retake majority control of the US Senate.
Representatives of environmental groups expressed dismay over the prospect of Inhofe assuming leadership of the panel.
Alys Campaigne, legislative director of the Natural Resources Council, said the senator "explicitly works for oil companies" in opposing carbon dioxide controls and air pollution enforcement.
A spokeswoman for the League of Conservation Voters said Inhofe had a record of "zero support" for environmental issues over the past six years.
However, William Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce, said the business community "has enormous respect for Inhofe."
Inhofe is expected to easily win reelection to the Senate this fall. He last won reelection in 1996 with 57% of the vote.
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