Environmentalists Lose Ally In Congress With Boxer Retiring

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Environmental advocates will lose an ally in Congress when Barbara Boxer leaves the Senate at the end of her term in 2016 after more than three decades in office.

The 74-year-old California Democrat championed many green causes, including some involving clean energy and open space, and opposed oil development and nuclear power.

For many years, Boxer chaired the powerful Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works — a post she gave up after Republicans took control of the Senate this year.

Boxer is “one of the best friends to the environment,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Brune credited the proliferation of solar, wind and other clean energy projects across the country to Boxer’s support.

Boxer announced Thursday she will not seek re-election in 2016. She was first elected to the House in 1982 and to the Senate a decade later.

“Thanks to Barbara, more Americans breathe clean air and drink clean water,” President Barack Obama said in a statement, adding, “More public lands have been protected for future generations.”

In 1994, Boxer led a three-day filibuster in the Senate aimed at halting the rollback of environmental laws. More recently, she raised health concerns over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas.

“She’s been the real deal when it comes to standing up for protecting our environment and public health,” said Ann Notthoff, California director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who has known Boxer since the 1970s when she was a Marin County supervisor fighting offshore drilling.

During her tenure, Boxer authored legislation setting aside more than 1 million acres of land in California as wilderness and led efforts to bar oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

While her green agenda has won praise from environmentalists, business interests have not always been keen on her stance.

“Sometimes she’s been on the right side of things. Sometimes she’s been on the wrong side of things,” said Frank Maisano, an energy industry specialist who works with the renewable energy industry, coal companies and utilities.

In recent years, Boxer has intervened on environmental issues closer to home.

After the San Onofre nuclear power plant between San Diego and Los Angeles sprang a small radiation leak in 2012, Boxer called for an investigation before restarting the reactors. San Onofre eventually was permanently shuttered.

When residents in a South Los Angeles neighborhood living near an urban oil field complained of nosebleeds, headaches and dizziness, Boxer called on an oil servicing company to voluntarily stop production.

Despite her long support of environmental causes, Boxer has not managed to help pass meaningful legislation to curb global warming, considered her signature issue.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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