Sen. Joe Manchin III forced a setback to President Biden‘s environmental agenda Thursday by wielding his power atop the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and refusing to sign off on one of the administration’s top climate change lieutenants.
The West Virginia Democrat “was not comfortable holding a hearing” to confirm Richard Glick, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees power companies and natural gas pipelines, for another five-year term, Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon confirmed to The Washington Times.
Mr. Glick’s current tenure will expire at the end of the year, leaving the five-person independent regulatory panel in a 2-2 Democrat vs. Republican deadlock on a host of energy and environmental issues key to Mr. Biden’s climate change priorities. Mr. Glick’s future has been in limbo since May, when the president renominated him.
Neither FERC nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment.
The move will undoubtedly receive cheers from the energy industry, which has viewed Mr. Glick’s reign as a roadblock to more domestic fossil fuel production, and criticism from environmental activists for leaving uncertain an ally who supports more stringent environmental regulations.
The decision comes amid a fraught relationship between Mr. Manchin and the FERC’s Democratic members, including Mr. Glick. The commission’s Democratic majority reversed course earlier this year in a bid to add environmental roadblocks for approving natural gas pipelines, a proposal that received fierce criticism from Mr. Manchin and Republicans amid calls for more natural gas amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.
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Mr. Manchin’s home state of West Virginia is one of the largest natural gas producers in the country.
His move to block Mr. Glick, who was first nominated to FERC by former President Donald Trump and elevated to chairman by Mr. Biden, means that the president could renominate Mr. Glick next year in the new Congress. However, his fate would remain uncertain, so long as Mr. Manchin is at the helm of the energy committee.
Throughout his presidency, Mr. Manchin has forced Mr. Biden to scale back his climate change agenda, thanks in large part to a 50-50 Senate.
Mr. Manchin’s decision comes as Mr. Biden travels to an annual United Nations summit in Egypt to discuss climate change. The president is set to deliver a speech Friday to attendees at the conference being held in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Over the weekend, Mr. Biden drew blowback — including from Mr. Manchin — by pledging to shutter another source of energy that West Virginia is one of the leading producers of: coal. Mr. Manchin has long-running personal financial ties to the industry.