A liberal Massachusetts Democrat will take over a House subcommittee that will play a major role in drafting legislation on global warming and other environmental issues.
Rep. Edward Markey, known for his tough stances on environmental issues, will replace Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat who has been friendly to the coal industry. Boucher had chaired the panel eight years.
Markey's appointment is another sign that House Democrats plan to aggressively tackle global warming and other environmental problems. He will take charge of an expanded subcommittee with broader jurisdiction, renamed Energy and Environment.
Markey already chairs a special committee set up in 2007 to focus on global warming and energy independence.
"I look forward to pursuing the legislative agenda on climate change and clean energy at this critical time," Markey said in a statement.
The appointment completes a shake up at the top of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that started in November when liberal California Rep. Henry Waxman ousted veteran Rep. John Dingell of Michigan for the chairmanship.
Dingell had been a staunch supporter of the auto industry. Many environmentalists and more liberal Democrats felt he was acting too slowly on global warming.
In late 2008, after dozens of hearings, Dingell and Boucher issued a draft version of a bill to curb global warming gases.
Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said Thursday that the change "should enhance the prospects for good global warming legislation this Congress."