California Senator Vows to Focus on Global Warming and Children's Health; Names longtime aide Bettina Poirier as first Female Staff Director and Chief Counsel of EPW



PETER RAFLE (202) 302-7086

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Washington, DC -- When the 110th Congress convenes in January, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will be the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW). Boxer will be the first woman to achieve the status of either Chair or Ranking Member of the Committee. The announcement became official as a result of Senate Democratic Caucus organizational meetings today.



"The air we breathe, the water we drink, the products we consume have a direct impact on the health of our families," Boxer said. "The American people deserve a government that does its job to protect their health and safety. The work of this Committee helps define the kind of world we leave our children and grandchildren.


"Nowhere is there a greater threat to future generations than the disastrous effects of global warming. Scientists tell us we must act soon to cut production of greenhouse gases. One of my top priorities will be to spotlight this issue with the help of colleagues from both sides of the aisle with the goal of ultimately bringing legislation to the Senate floor."

The EPW Committee's inception dates back to 1837 when the Senate created the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds. Its jurisdiction consisted predominately of oversight responsibility for federal buildings and lands in Washington, DC. In the early years, the first and only other Californian to hold a committee leadership post was its Chairman, Senator Leland Stanford, from 1887 to 1893. Today, Boxer holds the same Senate seat held by Senator Stanford, but as the head of a committee that has undergone many changes since the days of Stanford.


In 1947, the panel was renamed the Committee on Public Works when its jurisdiction expanded to include national infrastructure. What soon followed was legislation establishing the Interstate System as well as numerous flood control and navigation projects.


After the committee reorganization of 1963, the committee took on the assignment of enacting new laws to control air and water pollution. This led to the passage of the landmark Clean Air Act in 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972, which were signed into law by another Californian, President Richard Nixon.


In 1977, the panel was renamed the Committee on Environment and Public Works.


"I am so proud of my home state of California for its role as a national and worldwide leader on environmental protection and economic vitality," Boxer said. "Again this year, our state is showing the way forward by passing global warming legislation as well as numerous infrastructure bonds."

Boxer joined the EPW Committee as one of her first committee assignments after being sworn in to the Senate in 1993.


"Next year is the 30th anniversary of the Committee in its current form," Boxer said. "I intend to mark the anniversary by making the following commitments: Resisting attempts to roll back hard-won safeguards, reclaiming the bipartisan consensus in favor of greater environmental protection, and continuing our efforts to invest in the highways, transit systems and other infrastructure to keep goods and commerce moving."

Boxer announced today that her new Committee Staff Director and Chief Counsel, Ms. Bettina Poirier, will have the distinction of being the first woman to serve in that position in the history of the EPW Committee. Poirier, a longtime aide to Boxer, served as the Senator's Senior Counsel for environmental and agriculture issues, as well as Minority Counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee under Rep. John Dingell. A graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University and NYU Law School, Poirier also served as Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Pollution Control in the Department of Agriculture during the eight years of the Clinton Administration.


"I am thrilled to have Bettina Poirier lead the staff of this Committee," Boxer said.  "She has blazed the trail for women in her professional career as a tireless advocate, brilliant lawyer and committed environmentalist."

Here are some of the historically significant facts relating to Boxer's new position:


    • Boxer is the first woman to Chair the EPW Committee.


    • Boxer is the first Californian to serve as Chair since Leland Stanford served as Chair of the old Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds in the 19th Century. 
    • Boxer is the first Senator to hire a woman as Staff Director of this committee.