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Obama’s energy nominee in danger of defeat

Two key senators said Wednesday they will vote against confirming Ron Binz to be chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, dealing what could be a fatal blow to President Obama's pick for the obscure but powerful panel.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said Mr. Binz's attitude toward coal and natural gas is too dangerous for his state's economic health, and Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican, said Mr. Binz is too "anti-carbon" for him.

Both are members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is split with 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans. All of the other Republicans are also expected to oppose Mr. Binz and with Mr. Manchin's vote that leaves the nominee without majority support, which could bottle him up in the committee.

"After questioning Mr. Binz in yesterday's Energy Committee hearing, it is clear that we have completely different views on how to effectively invest in America's energy future — a future that I believe relies on clean, reliable and affordable energy," Mr. Manchin said in a statement.

For his part Mr. Heller said he wasn't convinced Mr. Binz agreed with the need for "an all-of-the-above approach to energy."

Mr. Heller's opposition is noteworthy because he seatmates with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Mr. Binz has been aided in his confirmation bid by two lobbyists who used to work for Mr. Reid.

Mr. Binz, the former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, had a rocky confirmation hearing on Tuesday, trying to explain his previous statement that natural gas was a "dead end" as a fuel, and to defend his use of a team of lobbyists and public relations strategists paid for by green technology interests in his effort to win confirmation.

But he didn't appear to shift the debate.

Indeed, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the committee, accused Mr. Binz of misleading her when he'd earlier denied he was working with a team of lobbyists and strategists.

Emails obtained by The Washington Times from a pressure group who requested them under open-records laws show Mr. Binz asked BP oil company officials to lobby the Energy Committee for him, and created a team of other lobbyists and advisers to plot a confirmation strategy.

Mr. Binz at Tuesday's hearing apologized to Ms. Murkowski, saying he didn't mean to mislead her. He also said that he had asked one of the strategists not to work with him anymore.

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