Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s only Democratic member of Congress, is being considered to head the U.S. Department of Energy by Republican President-elect Donald Trump, according to a report from Politico Thursday.
The political news organization reported that three anonymous sources with knowledge of the president-elect’s transition team had confirmed that Manchin’s name was being floated for the Cabinet position.
Jonathan Kott, Manchin’s spokesman, said the senator was aware of the media reports, but had not been contacted by Trump or his transition team as of Thursday afternoon.
In a prepared statement, Manchin — one of Congress’ most conservative Democrats — suggested he would consider the position if the billionaire-turned-president offered him the Cabinet seat.
“If I can do anything to help my state of West Virginia, and my country, I will talk to anybody about ways to do that,” Manchin said.
In recent weeks, Manchin has publicly argued with outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who criticized Trump for dividing the country during his campaign. Manchin also said that, barring something extraordinary, he would not oppose Trump’s other Cabinet and White House advisory appointments.
A few news organizations reported on Election Night last month that Manchin might switch from Democrat to Republican if the U.S. Senate was evenly split. Manchin immediately and sternly denied those reports, telling a reporter, “I’m a born in the wool West Virginia Democrat. I don’t know where they’re getting that crap from.”
Trump has already named his selections to fill several Cabinet positions, including several billionaires — Wilbur Ross at the Department of Commerce, Steven Mnuchin at the Department of Treasury and Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education.
If Trump were to offer Manchin the position of energy secretary, he would oversee the country’s nuclear security program, the Office of Science and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates interstate pipeline projects. Current U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is a nuclear physicist.
In 2013, Manchin opposed President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ron Binz, because he wasn’t favored by coal and natural gas companies.
Manchin, who would be up for re-election in a Republican-trending state in 2018, has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s air pollution regulations on coal-fired power plants and proposed rules for methane emissions from oil and gas pipelines and wells.
Trump has suggested he will do away with most of Obama’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, which are the leading cause of human-induced climate change.
At the same time, Manchin has been a proponent of research and federal funding for carbon capture technology that traps carbon emissions from power plants and pushes those greenhouse gases back underground — something that scientists support.
In 2010, the Obama administration approved funding for a carbon capture project in Mississippi, but in recent years, that project has fallen behind schedule and is more than $4 billion over its projected budget.
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