CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin said Wednesday he will vote against President Barack Obama's nominee for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman.
Speaking to reporters during a conference call Wednesday afternoon, Manchin said nominee Ron Binz's track record as head of Colorado Public Utilities shows he would focus too much of the nation's energy load on renewable resources. Manchin said that is not feasible.
"That's a serious problem for me, being a realist," he said. "I don't believe it's the right way for this country to move, and it does not make us energy independent."
Manchin, who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he would prefer a chairman that supports an "all-in" approach to energy that would allow the United States to become independent of foreign oil.
"I believe in renewables, but I believe in using the coal we have, the natural gas we have, and nuclear we can produce safely, he said.
"Give me somebody that understands every state in this great country of ours ... should be working toward energy independence using what they can."
Manchin's "no" vote likely dooms Binz's nomination.
Democrats hold a slim 12-10 majority on the Senate Energy Committee and it is unlikely Republicans will rally in Binz's support.
The committee held a three-hour confirmation hearing on Binz on Tuesday, peppering the nominee with questions. None of the Republicans spoke in favor of Binz.
Scrutiny over Binz's nomination is a little surprising, since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is a relatively obscure agency.
The office's principal responsibility is to regulate state-to-state transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil through power lines and pipelines. The agency also monitors energy markets and regulates wholesale electricity costs.
Binz tried to assure senators he would have limited power in deciding how the United States gets its electricity.
But Manchin said Wednesday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman could use his or her authority to pick and choose which power plants get to supply power to the nation's electric grid. That would allow Binz to choose renewable energy like wind farms over coal-fired power plants, Manchin said, which would raise energy costs.
Manchin said the FERC chairman also could deny mergers to carbon-based energy companies.
Speaking during Tuesday's hearing, Manchin said West Virginia is "getting the living crap beaten out of us" by the Obama administration's policies on coal-fired plants.
He questioned Binz on the closure of several coal-fired power plants during his tenure as Colorado's utilizes chief.
Binz pointed out that, during his time there, he also approved Colorado's largest coal plant.
"I would like to see a path forward for coal," Binz told Manchin. "I'm very sympathetic to what you have been saying."
No date has been set for a vote on Binz's nomination.