Jan 12, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Joe Manchin's top aide to join oil and gas lobbying group

Two men in suits walk purposefully down a white corridor

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) walks through the Capitol with his chief of staff, Lance West, on June 14, 2022. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin’s chief of staff, Lance West, is joining the American Petroleum Institute as vice president of federal affairs, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: As Manchin’s top aide for the last two years, West knows the politics – and the players — of the energy and climate change debates. His hiring indicates that API is preparing to play offense and defense in the new Congress.

  • Through the on-again and off-again Build Back Better negotiations, he developed a reputation as a fierce advocate for Manchin's positions.
  • A former Division I golfer, West worked closely with White House officials and other senate offices on a deal that Manchin ultimately — and somewhat surprisingly — supported: The Inflation Reduction Act, which included some $370 billion to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What we're hearing: West’s departure is unrelated to Manchin’s decision on whether to run for reelection in 2024, which still has much of Washington waiting.

  • Wes Kungel, Manchin's current legislative director, will replace West as the new chief of staff.

What they are saying: “Lance joins API at a critical time for our industry,” API president and CEO Mike Sommers said.

  • “His position on Capitol Hill placed him at the center of some of our country’s more important legislative debates, and his deep relationships on both sides of the aisle will be a tremendous asset to our organization and the industry we serve,” Sommers said.
  • “I’m grateful for the opportunity to help shape a commonsense energy future that benefits all Americans,” West said. “API and its members are leading the world with innovative solutions to ensure we have reliable, affordable, and cleaner energy the country and world needs."

The big picture: With the passage of the IRA, the Biden administration will turn to implementing the climate provisions to ensure the new spending will help the U.S. achieve its goal of cutting emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.

  • Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Manchin were unable to pass the permitting reform legislation that Manchin demanded for his vote for the billions in green energy subsidies.
  • Permitting reform, as well as getting the Mountain Valley Pipeline project approved, will remain key priorities for Manchin.
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