By L. Gil White
U. S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Democrats have given the public lands subcommittee gavel to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), his office said.
Manchin takes the Public Lands, Forests and Mining Subcommittee gavel from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who now chairs the full committee after former Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-N.M.) retirement.
Not only does the chairmanship help Manchin gain in profile, but the panel will now carry "mining" in its name. Mining is a top priority for Manchin and several other members of the panel.
"Senator Manchin has a deep well of experience on public lands and mining policy, which is why I am so glad he agreed to chair this subcommittee," Wyden said in a statement.
Manchin, a top coal industry booster and defender of Mountain State mining, will also be overseeing a host of issues important to lawmakers in Western states, home to most of America's federal lands.
Other lawmakers on the subcommittee, who include Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), are well-versed in mining and Western issues. Sen. John Barrasso, from the nation's top coal mining state, Wyoming, is the ranking Republican.
The full committee's top Republican, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), said of Manchin's appointment, "I look forward to working with him to advance sound policies on public lands and mining issues that will benefit not only West Virginia and my own home state of Alaska, but to all of the West."
Gil White is a former 14-year elected member of the West Virginia State Legislature as well as a former political liaison to Gov. Manchin.
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