In rift with Biden, Manchin promised to block oil, the gas candidate

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a sign of a growing divide among Democrats on energy issues, conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin says he will not advance on President Joe Biden’s nominee to oversee oil and gas leasing at the Department of the Interior.

Manchin, of West Virginia, chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and has major influence on energy and the environment in the closely divided Senate. In an op-ed Friday, he cited a Leaked memo signed by candidate Laura Daniel-Davis which proposed higher oil companies’ fees for drilling off the coast of Alaska.

Manchin said the higher rates supported by Daniel-Davis for the proposed drilling project in Alaska’s Cook Inlet “They are explicitly designed to decrease fossil energy production at the expense of our energy security.”

Although he had supported Daniel-Davis in the past, “I cannot, in good conscience, support her or anyone else who plays partisan politics and agrees with this misguided and dangerous manipulation of the law,” Manchin wrote in the Houston Chronicle. .

The dispute over the Daniel-Davis nomination comes as the Biden administration nears a decision on a Major oil project in Alaska which many environmental groups say would be bad for Biden’s climate legacy.

Climate activists are outraged that Biden appears open to the massive Willow project in northern Alaska, which they call a “coal bomb” that would break his campaign promise to limit oil drilling on public lands and waters. .

The approval of the project risks alienation of young voters which have prompted stronger climate action from the White House as Biden approaches a 2024 re-election campaign.

At the same time, Alaska Native leaders with ties to the oil-rich Northwest support the ConocoPhillips Alaska proposal. They say Project Willow would bring much-needed jobs and billions of dollars in tax and mitigation funds to the vast snow- and ice-covered region nearly 600 miles (965 kilometers) from Anchorage.

Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and state lawmakers also support the bill.

Daniel-Davis, who currently serves as the Interior’s principal assistant secretary for land and mineral management, will not directly decide the fate of the Willow project, but Manchin and Alaska’s two Republican senators have criticized what who consider their lukewarm support for oil drilling public. land and water. Daniel-Davis oversees the Interior’s Office of Land Management, the Office of Ocean Energy Management, the Office of Environmental Safety and Security, and the Office of Surface Mining Claim and Enforcement.

She was first nominated for the assistant secretary position nearly two years ago, but her bid stalled due to concerns from Manchin and Senate Republicans. Biden renominated her for the post in January.

In a statement Friday, the White House said Biden “nominated Laura Daniel-Davis because she has worked to conserve public lands, protect wildlife and address climate change for three decades, while prioritizing a collaborative and grassroots approach in partnership. She is well qualified for this position and we look forward to her moving forward in the confirmation process.”

Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, said the Interior was “very disappointed” to learn of Manchin’s opposition to Daniel-Davis after he supported him during two committee hearings and votes. in the last two years.

“Laura Daniel-Davis has served this administration, as she has two others, with a dedication that we should aspire to see in every public servant,” Schwartz said in an email. “She will continue to lead this portfolio at Interior and implement President Biden’s direction, consistently and clearly stated from day one, about properly balancing the role that public lands and waters play as we the climate crisis”.

Daniel-Davis is one of several Biden candidates that Manchin has opposed. Another is Gigi Sohn, who withdrew her nomination to the Federal Communications Commission after Manchin objected.

Manchin also voted against the nomination of Daniel Werfel to lead the Internal Revenue Service. Werfel was confirmed Thursday with the support of many Republicans.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the top Republican on the energy panel, welcomed Manchin’s latest announcement. “Laura Daniel-Davis has done everything she could to undermine American energy production. As I have said before, her nomination must be withdrawn,” Barrasso tweeted.

But Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the liberal Center on Western Priorities, called Manchin’s “flip-flop” on Daniel-Davis “bewildering, hypocritical and short-sighted.” role, “with or without Manchin’s support for a promotion,” Rokala said. “But now the White House and the Department of the Interior have no reason to continue to cater to Manchin’s whims.

In his op-ed, Manchin harshly criticized the implementation by the Biden administration of the Inflationary Reduction Act, or IRA, a key. the climate, tax and health care that Manchin helped craft.

“While the Biden administration has continued to play political games and incorrectly incriminate the IRA as climate change legislation, the truth is that the IRA is about ensuring America’s energy independence for the next century,” Manchin wrote.

“The Biden administration continues to ignore the intent of Congress on critical components of the IRA … to illogically advance a partisan climate agenda and appease radical activists,” Manchin added. He said the Interior and Treasury departments “have blatantly and shamelessly violated the letter of the law … in an effort to elevate climate goals above the energy and national security of this nation.”

Manchin has repeatedly slammed Treasury for issuing guidelines that would allow auto makers in Europe and Asia to waive requirements that significant portions of electric vehicle batteries be produced in North America.

“This is wrong and it must stop,” Manchin wrote.

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