Manchin indicates opposition to Biden lands nominee over internal memo

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is putting the future of one of President Biden’s nominees to the Interior Department in question.

Manchin is indicating that he’s set to withdraw his support from Laura Daniel-Davis, who Biden nominated to serve as assistant secretary of the Interior for land and minerals management.

Manchin heads the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the nominee. Democrats also only have a one-seat majority on the panel.

The senator’s latest statement came in response to what he described as an internal memo that was mistakenly posted by the Interior Department to its website.

In the document, Daniel-Davis indicates agreement with a decision that Manchin described as the administration “putting their radical climate agenda ahead of the needs of the people of Alaska and the United States.”

“I will not support anyone who agrees with this type of misguided reasoning,” he said.

The document, which was viewed by The Hill, pertains to the department’s decisionmaking on a recent oil and gas lease sale off the coast of Alaska.

In it, then-Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Amanda Lefton wrote that lowering fees that companies have to pay to the federal government to recover oil and gas would be more likely to result in energy development and therefore more government revenue and greater energy security.

But, Lefton recommended against lowering the fees “because of the serious challenges facing the Nation from climate change and the impact of GHGs [greenhouse gases] from fossil fuels.”

Daniel-Davis, who is currently serving as principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management, checked a box concurring with the recommendations, the document showed.

The Interior Department declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

A source close to the administration told The Hill they believe that Daniel-Davis was a “pawn in the chairman’s game.”

“No one believed he would stand by his word and support her. Today’s statement should not surprise anyone,” the source said.

The Center for Western Priorities, an environmental group, expressed a similar sentiment.

“It appears that Senator Manchin is looking for any excuse to delay Laura Daniel-Davis’s long-overdue confirmation, and by extension, derail the accomplishments of the Inflation Reduction act and bipartisan infrastructure law,” said a statement from the group’s executive director, Jennifer Rokala.

“The senator could hold an oversight hearing with White House officials or the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management any time he wants. Instead, he is choosing to obstruct a nomination that has been unnecessarily and unfairly stalled for nearly two years,” Rokala added.

In previous committee confirmation votes, Manchin supported Daniel-Davis.

The lease sale in question, sale 258, was held late last year. It received just one bid on one tract out of 193 that were offered up for lease.

The Interior Department was required to hold the sale by the Inflation Reduction Act, a provision that was likely included to secure Manchin’s support for the Democrats’ climate, tax and health care bill.

Prior to that legislation, the department had canceled the sale, citing a lack of industry interest.

Updated at 5:21 p.m.

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