House Natural Resources Chair Will Retire

Rep. Doc Hastings says he will not seek reelection in November.

WASHINGTON - APRIL 20: U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) (C) speaks with committee members Judy Biggert (R-IL) (L) Melissa Hart (R-PA) (obscured) and Tom Cole (R-OK) (R) during a news conference at the Capitol April 20, 2005 in Washington, DC. The committee announced they are prepared to empanel an investigation subcommittee to review alleged wrongdoing by Majority Leader Tom DeLay.  (National Journal)

The Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection in November, spelling an end to his two-decade run in Congress.

Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington was first elected to the House in 1994, the same year that Republicans won a majority for the first time in 40 years. He served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee from 2005 to 2007, and in 2011 he took over the gavel at Natural Resources, where he has served alternately as chair and ranking member.

Hastings has used the committee perch to strongly criticize White House energy policies. He has been a staunch advocate of expanding public lands to oil and natural-gas production and has accused the administration of overreach on energy and environmental regulation. Bills passed through the committee in recent years included measures to greatly increase onshore and offshore drilling, and to thwart planned Interior Department regulations on hydraulic fracturing and mountaintop mining.

Hastings said a desire to spend more time with family was the chief reason for his decision to leave Congress.

"Without question, my family weighed heavily in my decision," he said in a statement. "[My wife and I] both look forward with anticipation to the time we will have together and with our family after my term ends in January."

It's unclear who will assume the chairmanship once Hastings gives up the gavel. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is the next most senior Republican member of the panel but is ineligible due to the fact that he has already served three terms as committee chair. The next most senior Republican committee member is Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. Gohmert's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, also has seniority and could be a contender. When asked whether he would be interested in the chairmanship, Bishop didn't rule it out. "There is still a full year of issues to be debated and passed under the leadership of Chairman Hastings," Bishop said in a statement. "It's premature to engage in those discussions right now. At the appropriate time I will comment further."