Progressive Democrats who acknowledge the undeniable science behind man-made climate change are furious at the possibility of coal-country Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) being the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Even though it will be an appointment as a minority party member, Democrat Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state—and a potential 2020 presidential candidate—went on the attack this week. Inslee demanded Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) block Manchin from the top committee position, and insisted via Twitter that “Senate Democrats must not allow Joe Manchin to become the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”
Senate Democrats must not allow Joe Manchin to become the ranking member of the Energy Committee. Our party must be wholly committed to ending America's dependence on fossil fuels. Manchin literally shot climate legislation in one of his campaign ads. https://t.co/ISsKgRL5kr
— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) December 4, 2018
Gov. Inslee was quick to praise Manchin as “a champion for affordable health care for every American,” and “a leader on issues you and I care deeply about,” but nevertheless described him as “simply wrong” regarding climate issues.
Manchin, who hails from one of the biggest coal-producing states, has opposed federal efforts to dump the dirty fuel in the past. He’s only ever plugged the idea of fossil-fuel reducing initiatives like “cap and trade” when he was using an actual rifle to plug it.
The senator began to moderate his extreme views around 2015 — or at least grow sensitive to accusations of being a denier — but his migration was never steady. He praised Pope Francis’ proclamation embracing the importance of reversing climate damage, but still agreed to install climate deniers over the EPA three years later.
He was also one of the few Democratic Senators who voted to approve the nomination of infamous climate denier and oil company shill Scott Pruitt to the top post at the EPA, who then immediately set about dismantling federal efforts to curb carbon release. Manchin also approved the nomination of EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler — a former coal lobbyist who denies the reality behind the human impact on climate change.
“Andrew Wheeler will bring extraordinary credentials to EPA that will greatly assist the agency as we work to implement the president’s agenda,” EPA Spokeswoman Liz Bowman told reporters in an April statement that probably haunts Manchin today. “We appreciate Senator Manchin and Senator Heitkamp’s support.”
Manchin has grudgingly adapted his views as public panic over climate change grows, though most dramatically in the shadow of recent Democratic opposition. Just this week, for example, he opposed Trump’s choice of Bernard McNamee for an open Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seat (McNamee was nonetheless confirmed Thursday on party lines).
“After viewing video footage, which I had not previously seen, where Bernard McNamee outright denies the impact that humans are having on our climate, I can no longer support his nomination to be a FERC commissioner,” Manchin announced via Twitter.
Joe Manchin says in statement he changed his mind against supporting FERC nominee Bernard McNamee because of his remarks denying humans are having an impact on climate. pic.twitter.com/1hxNEFMVws
— Ari Natter (@AriNatter) December 5, 2018
Caleb Heeringa, deputy press secretary for Sierra Club Washington’s Beyond Coal campaign, said he was aware of Inslee’s opposition to the senatorial appointment, and praised his governor’s opposition to coal. He added, however, that the state of Washington still has a long way to go in reducing coal as a fuel source, despite its progressive reputation.
“Some of our biggest utilities here still take a big chunk of coal,” Heeringa told Grit Post. “Energy mostly coming from western Washington is still more than 30 percent coal and they get their coal from… one of the largest seams in eastern Montana. Surprisingly, we still have a lot of coal in our energy portfolio, I hear. So we’re continuing to push our utilities to adopt cleaner options.”
Gov. Inslee is perhaps not the biggest Democratic superstar coming out against Manchin. Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also joined other progressive lawmakers in voicing concern over the prospect.