Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee

Senate Democrats on Tuesday named Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin on 'Medicare for All': 'We can't even pay for Medicare for some' Overnight Energy: New EPA rule could expand officials weighing in on FOIA requests | Trump plan to strip conservation fund gets bipartisan pushback | Agriculture chief downplays climate concerns Trump plan to strip public land conservation fund gets bipartisan pushback 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 SchumerTrump goes after Democrats over photo of drowned migrants Schumer displays photo of drowned migrants on Senate floor in appeal to Trump McConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems 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 Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again 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 CantwellHillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Senators call on McConnell to bring net neutrality rules to a vote Maine shakes up debate with tough internet privacy law 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 NelsonDemocrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups How Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA MORE (D-Fla.) lost reelection last month.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases MORE (D-Ore.) remained atop the Finance Committee, Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann Stabenow It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over 'gross mischaracterizations' of record Trump judicial nominee withdraws amid Republican opposition: report MORE (D-Mich.) kept the top spot on the Agriculture Committee and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again Don't expect Trump-sized ratings for Democratic debates 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.