Virginia U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher was chosen this week by the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives as the chairman of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Boucher had previously served as ranking member of the subcommittee during the 108th and 109th Congresses and has a long history and experience with matters relating to energy and the environment.

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois was selected as the ranking minority member of the subcommittee.

As chairman, Boucher will be uniquely positioned to develop national energy policy with the views of Southwest Virginia's industries such as coal and agriculture at the forefront. Additionally, he will be able to conduct oversight and develop policies that will benefit energy consumers across the nation and in Southwest Virginia.

The jurisdiction of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee includes national energy policy generally; fossil energy, renewable energy resources and synthetic fuels; energy conservation; energy information; energy regulation and utilization; utility issues and regulation of nuclear facilities and waste; interstate energy compacts; and the Clean Air Act. The subcommittee is part of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the single busiest committee in the House.

Boucher's agenda will be led by an effort to achieve American energy independence by substituting domestic fuel alternatives for petroleum. He said liquid fuels derived from coal and cellulosic ethanol can substantially curb the United States' reliance on imported oil.

"By using our nation's most abundant natural resources to produce transportation fuels, we can address fuel cost concerns, make our nation less reliant on imports from politically unstable regions of the world, and simultaneously benefit our domestic energy industry. We should harness federal energy policy behind a major effort to encourage domestic alternative transportation fuels production," Boucher said.

In addition, Boucher will be responsible for conducting oversight regarding the implementation of the historic Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT). In that role, he will be able to ensure that the provisions of the law are being implemented as intended and to determine if further legislative action is required.

For example, Boucher was the author of provisions in EPACT that promote smart meters and time of use pricing - technology that will enable consumers to be notified of the cost of their electricity consumption at any given time and to adjust the bill for usage accordingly. Time of use pricing will enable consumers to save money on electricity bills by shifting electricity use to times when it costs less.

Boucher plans to hold hearings to determine the effectiveness of the smart metering provisions in EPACT and to develop additional federal legislation if necessary.

"The broad reach of the subcommittee's jurisdiction ensures that I will be able to address a number of issues of relevance to Southwest Virginia's economy and to our nation's energy policy. I look forward to serving in this capacity and to the tasks and challenges ahead," Boucher said.

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