Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee

Senate Democrats on Tuesday named Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Green groups sue Trump over Endangered Species Act changes | Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency | Wildfires in Amazon rainforest burn at record rate Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west GOP senator: Gun control debate 'hasn't changed much at all' back home MORE (D-W.Va.) as the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, despite objections by progressive groups.

Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) announced the appointment, along with the ranking members of other panels.

While Senate Democrats decide committee leadership roles by seniority, the Democratic caucus ratified the lineup.

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“I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve West Virginians in this new role as the lead Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,” Manchin said in a statement.

“This committee has a long history of bipartisanship that has helped propel our nation’s energy technology forward. West Virginia is a leading energy producer and major contributor to advanced energy technologies, and I intend to ensure this progress is continued,” he said.

“The problems facing our country are serious, and I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common sense solutions for long-term comprehensive energy policy that incorporates an all-of-the-above strategy and ensures our state and our nation are leaders in the energy future.”

The panel oversees the Energy and Interior departments, including public lands, energy policy, energy efficiency standards and fossil fuel production on federal land and offshore.

Manchin, who won a rough reelection race last month, is a strong supporter of the coal industry and frequently sides with the Trump administration and the GOP on energy matters. He famously shot a copy of the Democrats' cap-and-trade climate change bill in a 2010 campaign commercial to demonstrate his opposition to it and support for coal.

But he voted last week against Bernard McNamee, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE’s nominee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It was a flip from his vote in the Energy Committee, and he said it was because McNamee denied the science of climate change.

Congressional Democrats generally favor moving away from fossil fuels like coal, which cause climate change.

Environmentalists have for weeks slammed Manchin and called on Schumer to use his authority to name someone else ranking member.

"Joe Manchin’s appointment as ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee is a stark failure of Chuck Schumer’s leadership," Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. "Schumer is out of touch with the progressive voters who will continue to push for a Green New Deal in the next Congress."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) also called on Senate leaders to stop Manchin’s ascension, circulating a petition last week to try to convince him.

Manchin, meanwhile, has promised to go in with an open mind and take seriously concerns of the rest of the Democratic caucus, environmentalists, renewable energy advocates and others.

“Hopefully there’s concern over nothing, because I’m happy to work with everybody,” he said last week.

Four senators outranked Manchin in seniority and could have blocked him from becoming ranking member. But each wanted instead to be ranking member of another committee.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellWill Congress act to stop robocalls? Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Hillicon Valley: Trump reportedly weighing executive action on alleged tech bias | WH to convene summit on online extremism | Federal agencies banned from buying Huawei equipment | Lawmakers jump start privacy talks MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member since 2015, took over as the top Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. That spot opened up because Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonAl Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups MORE (D-Fla.) lost reelection last month.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (D-Ore.) remained atop the Finance Committee, Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowUSDA cuts payments promised to researchers as agency uproots to Kansas City USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency USDA office move may have broken law, watchdog says MORE (D-Mich.) kept the top spot on the Agriculture Committee and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 candidates have the chance to embrace smarter education policies Bernie Sanders Adviser talks criminal justice reform proposal, 'Medicare for All' plan Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona MORE (I-Vt.) kept the ranking position on the Budget Committee.

Some progressive had pushed for Sanders to move to the Energy Committee ranking spot, but he refused. He declined Tuesday to answer reporters’ questions about his decision.

The National Wildlife Federation welcomed Manchin’s leadership.

“At a time when Republicans control the U.S. Senate, Senator Manchin’s leadership atop the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee presents us with a bipartisan bridge-builder who could help us confront America’s wildlife crisis and find other durable solutions to the challenges we face,” Collin O’Mara, the group’s president, said in a statement.