Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, has ousted John Dingell as chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This has repercussions for state and local government because Waxman is considered far more likely to pursue rigorous climate-change legislation than Dingell, a 50-year-plus representative of the Detroit area. (Auto stocks, which seemed to have no more room to drop, are down on the news.)

Dingell and Virginia Rep. Rick Boucher had been shopping a draft climate change bill lately, but it was more about distant targets than real mandates. Waxman is more likely to push something that would include a national cap-and-trade system, which would have obvious repercussions for the regional efforts in this area in the Northeast and West.

Waxman is also an old hand at expanding health coverage and so will be a lead partner of Tom Daschle and the Obama administration in crafting a universal or near-universal proposal.

His ascension is a big blow to the House seniority system and I have to admit I didn't think he'd pull it off.