Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee

Senate Democrats on Tuesday named Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE (D-W.Va.) as the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, despite objections by progressive groups.

Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workers GOP super PAC launching August ad blitz Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package 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 TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation 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 CantwellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mike Roman says 3M on track to deliver 2 billion respirators globally and 1 billion in US by end of year; US, Pfizer agree to 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccine that will be free to Americans Overnight Energy: Supreme Court reinstates fast-track pipeline permit except for Keystone XL | Judge declines to reverse Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget 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 Nelson Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon MORE (D-Fla.) lost reelection last month.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal MORE (D-Ore.) remained atop the Finance Committee, Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Democrats warn Biden against releasing SCOTUS list MORE (D-Mich.) kept the top spot on the Agriculture Committee and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersProgressives soaring after big primary night 'Absolutely incredible': Ocasio-Cortez congratulates Cori Bush on upset victory over Lacy Clay Sanders supporters launch six-figure ad campaign explaining why they're voting for Biden 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.