Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) is likely to serve as Ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. (Photo: Third Way Think Tank/Flickr/cc)

'Worst Possible Choice': Pressure Mounts on Schumer to Keep Pro-Coal Joe Manchin From Powerful Energy Post

"I have concerns because I don't think we should be financed by the industries that we are supposed to be legislating and regulating."

Julia Conley

While pressuring Democratic leaders to form a new congressional committee with a mandate to pass a Green New Deal, climate action groups and progressives lawmakers including Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are also raising deep concerns over the corporate-friendly Democrat who's expected to serve as the party's top member on the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee—a gift to the fossil fuel industry which has long buttressed his political career.

As ranking member of the committee, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) would be in the position to reject nominees for positions in the Interior and Energy Departments and stop the panel from approving attempts to waive environmental laws concerning logging as well as energy industries—a responsibility Ocasio-Cortez says Manchin is unlikely to fulfill given his ties to Big Coal.

"Senator Joe Manchin is the worst possible choice to lead Senate Democrats' work on energy policy. Do not allow a senator in the pocket of the coal industry to serve as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources." —CREDO Action"I have concerns because I don't think we should be financed by the industries that we are supposed to be legislating and regulating," Ocasio-Cortez told The Hill.

CREDO Action echoed the sentiment, circulating a petition signed by more than 65,000 people and reading, "Senator Joe Manchin is the worst possible choice to lead Senate Democrats' work on energy policy. Do not allow a senator in the pocket of the coal industry to serve as the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources."

Manchin received $35,000 from coal companies in 2018, while the oil and gas sector contributed more than $156,000 to his campaign. While a majority of Americans—even in states that had booming coal businesses in past decades—believe the country needs to invest in renewable energy, Manchin has joined President Donald Trump in stubbornly defending the coal industry.  

Washington's Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, has started a petition to pressure Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to give the ranking member position to another Democrat. Inslee fought for a ballot initiative that would have created the country's first carbon tax in his state, while Manchin was one of four Democrats who voted to prohibit a federal tax on carbon emissions in 2015.

Manchin "simply can't be trusted to make the bold, progressive decisions we need," the governor's petition read.

"The fundamental thing I'm saying is the fate of the planet right now has got to trump any seniority system of the U.S. Senate," Inslee told The Hill.

"Joe Manchin could not be further out of step with his colleagues on the climate crisis, and shouldn't be anywhere near leadership that determines our energy policy," added Julian Brave NoiseCat, policy analyst for 350.org. "As someone who took over a million dollars in fossil fuel industry donations, he's the textbook example of a bought-and-paid-for politician—we might as well give a coal executive that promotion."

At the home of Schumer in New York City on Monday, a local Indivisible chapter joined with the Sunrise Movement to demand that Schumer choose someone else to further progressive interests on the Energy Committee.

"[Schumer]'s the minority leader. If he made it a priority to recruit someone better to fill this role, we think he could figure it out!" Liat Olenick, president of Indivisible BK told the Daily Beast.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) also pressured Schumer to take action that is well within his rights as the Senate's most powerful Democrat, to keep the pro-industry Manchin out of the ranking position.

"The first thing is, Joe Manchin is categorically unacceptable as ranking member and the second thing is that Chuck Schumer can fix this," Lukas Ross, senior policy analyst at FOE, told The Hill. "This is truly a question of moral courage and leadership—it is within his power to waive the seniority rules."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Officials Warn of 'Record-Shattering Month' for Civilian Deaths in Yemen

Following deadly strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, Oxfam is calling on the U.N. Security Council to condemn attacks on Yemenis and to "inject new urgency" into peace talks.

Jessica Corbett ·


Experts Say Nuclear Energy as Climate Solution Is Total 'Fiction'

"The reality is nuclear is neither clean, safe, or smart; but a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm."

Jessica Corbett ·


Air and Water Under Threat as SCOTUS Targets Environmental Laws

"It seems like we have a new conservative supermajority on the court that is much more inclined to do a slash-and-burn expedition through our major environmental laws."

Julia Conley ·


'Historic Turning Point': Cuba Issues Plan for Vaccine Internationalism

"This lifesaving package," said the head of Progressive International's delegation to Cuba, exemplifies public health and science being "placed above private profit and petty nationalism."

Kenny Stancil ·


Fridays For Future Announces Global Climate Strike for March 25

"Join us for the Global Climate Strike as we demand policymakers and world leaders to prioritize #PeopleNotProfit!"

Common Dreams staff ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo