scorecardJoe Manchin just hired a natural gas lobbyist to his energy panel even as he blocks Biden's climate agenda
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Joe Manchin just hired a natural gas lobbyist to his energy panel even as he blocks Biden's climate agenda

Kayla Epstein   

Joe Manchin just hired a natural gas lobbyist to his energy panel even as he blocks Biden's climate agenda
PoliticsPolitics3 min read
  • Joe Manchin just hired a natural gas lobbyist to work for him on the Senate Energy Committee.
  • C.J. Osman lobbied Congress on behalf of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.

Sen. Joe Manchin has hired a natural gas industry lobbyist to work for the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee as he continues to spar with the Biden administration over its energy and climate policies.

C.J. Osman spent nearly six years at the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, most recently as its top lobbyist, before joining Manchin's committee as a professional staff member in March. The hiring was first reported by Legistorm, which compiles data about the congressional workforce.

Osman was registered as a lobbyist representing the INGAA from 2019 to 2021, and represented the organization's interests in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, federal records show.

It's so common for congressional staffers to jump ship to lobbying firms, and for lawmakers to snap up lobbyists for their policy teams, that the system is often referred to as a "revolving door." While supporters of the practice say it allows them to hire staffers with nuanced expertise, good government groups have for years raised alarms that the revolving door leads to undue lobbying influence on Congress.

It's not clear if Osman's portfolio includes natural gas policy. "Mr. Osman is subject to the same Senate ethics and financial standards as every staff member in the US Senate and he will be in full compliance," a spokesperson for Manchin told Insider.

Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, represents a coal-producing state and has taken a more conservative stance on climate issues than his other Democratic colleagues — though he has supported clean energy solutions, such as wind farms. With an evenly divided Senate, Manchin's refusal to get on board with some of President Joe Biden's major legislative initiatives have doomed them in Congress, including the Build Back Better bill, which was the president's most ambitious plan to tackle climate change.

As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Manchin has the power to steer energy and climate-related legislation and to grill Biden's agency leads about their policies. The committee practices oversight of the government's policies for energy sources like wind, solar, natural gas, electricity, and fossil fuels.

At a March 3 hearing, Manchin grilled all five members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on their updated guidelines for approving natural gas projects, which require more environmental considerations to be taken into account. The changes are intended to stave off ecological harm from such projects but may delay some permits being granted, to the frustration of lawmakers like Manchin as energy prices continue to rise during the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

During the hearing, Manchin characterized the regulations as "an effort underway by some to inflict death by a thousand cuts on the fossil fuels that have made our energy reliable and affordable," Reuters reported. He expressed frustration with the slower pace of permit approvals at a time when Americans' costs are rising.

After the hearing, Manchin told a Fox News reporter he wanted FERC Chairman Richard Glick to "just do your damn job, that's all I told him."

Manchin has blocked major portions of Biden's climate change agenda, including the massive Build Back Better bill that was the key to the White House's plans to curb emissions — until the lawmaker objected to the clean electricity program at the heart of the plan. The senator also criticized the cost of the bill's social programs and argued it could increase inflation. Build Back Better was slowly whittled down to please Manchin until talks stalled and the bill was scrapped.

The White House is now trying to revive portions of the Build Back Better in new, slimmer pieces of legislation. To ensure its passage, they are working closely in conjunction with Manchin.