West Virginia’s coal industry has taken such a hit from environmental regulations that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has decided to buck President Obama. Manchin announced Wednesday that he will oppose Ron Binz, the president’s pick to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“Based on Mr. Binz’s record in Colorado, I have grave concerns about how he would regulate our energy sector as the next Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” said Manchin in a statement. “Mr. Binz’s actions prove that he prioritizes renewables over reliability.”
“His approach of demonizing coal and gas has increased electricity costs for consumers,” the senator added. “I believe Mr. Binz’s record is unacceptable for a FERC Chairman.”
Manchin vented his frustrations during a Senate hearing regarding the nominees, grilling Binz over the future of coal.
“We’re getting the living crap beaten out of us,” Manchin said during a Senate confirmation hearing.
Former Colorado utilities regulator Binz has been a controversial pick to head up FERC because of his past support for renewable energy while he served the Centennial State.
FERC serves as the nation’s utility regulator and has authority over electric grids, gas pipelines, natural gas export terminals and hydroelectric power plants. It is considered independent from the president and the commission’s chairman can establish initiatives that can eventually become mandatory rules, affecting 70 percent of the electrical generation in the U.S.
While in Colorado, Binz came under fire for his role promoting a renewable energy law that resulted in the closing of six coal-fired power plants in order to convert them into natural gas burning plants. Binz strongly supported the Clean Air, Clean Jobs, which intended to move the state away from coal power towards renewable energy and natural gas.
“I saw the commission not simply as an umpire calling balls and strikes, but also as a leader on policy implementation,” Binz said in an interview.
This is not something that sits well with West Virginia coal supporters, and Manchin is under pressure from his constituents to do more to stop the Obama administration from regulating the coal industry out of business.