Joe Manchin’s Ties to the Oil and Gas Industry are no secret. The West Virginia senator is a top recipient of fossil fuel corporate donations to Congress, and he still has substantial interests in a coal brokerage firm he co-founded that is now belongs to his son.
But those ties are coming under scrutiny after it was announced on Friday that his chief of staff, Lance West, is leaving his office for the lobbying job at the American Petroleum Institute, a group that represents oil and gas interests. .
“Lance joins API at a critical time for our industry,” API President and CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement, which was reported by Axios.
“His position on Capitol Hill has placed him at the center of some of our nation’s most important legislative debates, and his deep connections on both sides of the aisle will be a tremendous asset to our organization and the industry we serve.” , the statement added.
The decision of one of Mr. Manchin’s closest advisers has been seized upon as further evidence of the oil and gas industry’s influence over Congress.
The Washington Post described him as “[m]more evidence of the revolving door phenomenon on Capitol Hill” – a reference to the common practice of lobby groups hiring the staff of politicians they once lobbied, and vice versa.
According to data compiled by OpenSecrets, over 60 percent of oil and gas lobbyists working in Washington, DC have previously worked for the federal government in some capacity.
Last year, the door swung the other way when Mr Manchin hiring a natural gas industry lobbyist, CJ Osman, of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, to serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, whose he is president.
As a former governor and current senator of the second biggest The country’s coal-producing state, Mr. Manchin has always championed his support for the oil and gas industry as vital to the interests of his constituents.
But he was criticized by within his own party for his ties to industry and his repeated blocking of legislation aimed at reducing the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels in order to reduce the impact of climate change.
Mr. Manchin was the last Democratic resister at a landmark $369 billion climate and energy package last yearand only joined his colleagues in delivering his crucial vote in the majority for a Senate seat after securing several major concessions for the fossil fuel industry.
“We must stop pretending there is only one way to fight global climate change or achieve American energy independence,” Manchin said in a statement announcing the deal, reached. in July last year.
“As the world’s superpower, it is essential that we do not undermine our superpower status by removing reliable and affordable fossil energy before new technologies are ready to reliably carry the load,” he said. added.
During those negotiations, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders accused Mr. Manchin of sabotaging climate change legislation.
“They are not Democrats. It’s not the president. This is the future of the planet. So when Manchin sabotages climate change, it’s for future generations,” Mr. Sanders said. ABC.
“What is happening right now in the West, all over the world we are seeing a significant increase, more and more heat waves, droughts, floods. This is an existential threat to humanity” , he added.
There is no evidence that Mr. Manchin broke any laws regarding his positions on supporting fossil fuel companies in the Senate.
API, a powerful oil and gas industry lobby group that counts Shell, Exxon, Chevron and BP among its members, has been accused of misleading the public about the climate. The group is also the subject of several lawsuits related to this alleged deception, in particular by the State of Minnesota.
The trial accused API for having been “a member of at least five organizations that have promoted misinformation about fossil fuel products to consumers.”
Senator Manchin’s office and API did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.