WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia, indicated he would not hold a confirmation hearing to consider President Joe Biden’s re-nomination of top energy regulator Rich Glick, potentially dooming Glick’s chances.
Glick, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), needs to be approved by the full Senate for another term.
Manchin took umbrage with comments by Biden days before the midterm elections about shutting coal-fired power plants. “We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America,” Biden said on Nov. 4.
“The Chairman was not comfortable holding a hearing,” Sam Runyon, a spokesperson for Manchin said in a release. Runyon did not respond to a question about whether Manchin, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, was refusing to hold a hearing because of Biden’s coal comments.
A White House official said: “We understand that the Committee needs more time, and we hope to move forward as we continue to work collaboratively with both the Committee and Chairman Manchin.”
Manchin’s stance on not having a hearing for Glick was reported by Bloomberg Law.
Manchin, the founder and partial owner of a private coal brokerage, Enersystems, has been reluctant to rein in fossil fuels. His support for Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act legislation came only after the legislation’s climate measures were trimmed.
He blasted FERC earlier this year over proposed scrutiny of greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals. The agency has since walked back the proposal.
While the hearing could still be rescheduled, time is running short before the end of the current Congress. Glick’s term ends when the current Congress adjourns on Jan. 2 or before, and he cannot hold the chairmanship or a seat on the five-member panel after that unless reconfirmed by the full Senate.
The razor-thin Democratic control of the Senate is in question after the Nov. 8 elections and it would be unlikely for a Republican-controlled Congress to approve Glick. Even if the Senate remained at 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris having the tie-breaking vote, a “no” vote from Manchin could doom Glick’s chairmanship. A FERC with only two Republicans and two Democrats could deadlock the panel’s energy policy decisions.
FERC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Diane Craft and Bradley Perrett)