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West Virginia’s Manchin gains key role on energy panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — West Virginia’s Joe Manchin will become the Democrats’ top member on the Senate energy committee, giving the coal-state lawmaker a prominent position to shape policy.

Manchin’s prospective ascension to the top Democratic spot on the energy panel had sparked the ire of some environmentalists, who warned that he wasn’t supportive enough of clean energy to win the post. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, a potential candidate for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, launched a petition drive last week warning that Manchin “simply can’t be trusted to make the bold, progressive decisions we need” from the energy committee’s senior Democrat.

After Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced his promotion Tuesday, Manchin said in a statement that he is “excited for the opportunity to continue to serve West Virginians in this new role.”

“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.”

Erich Pica, president of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a statement that “Joe Manchin’s appointment as ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee is a stark failure of Chuck Schumer’s leadership.”

Manchin will take the Democrats’ top spot on the committee because Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington is moving to become the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee. Sens. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan could have leapfrogged over Manchin but chose not to leave their top spots on the Budget and Agriculture committees, respectively.

Senate Democrats will remain the minority next year, with the GOP holding a 53-seat majority.

Manchin was elected to another six-year term in November, defeating Republican Patrick Morrisey. The coal industry spent heavily in support of Morrisey’s campaign.

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