WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Democrats have assigned West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, known for a campaign commercial in which he shot a bullet through a cap-and-trade bill, to a seat on the Senate's Energy & Natural Resources Committee.

Manchin, a newly elected senator who previously served as governor of West Virginia, said he'll use his new committee seat to "fight for a commonsense, balanced energy approach that recognizes West Virginia's critical role in our nation's economy," according to a statement he released Thursday.

The state of West Virginia is a big producer of coal, which places some of its Democratic representatives at odds with other members of the party. And that's especially true when it comes to efforts to regulate carbon dioxide pollution, a byproduct of coal-fired power generation.

Former Virginia congressman Rick Boucher (D), for example, suffered a bruising defeat to newcomer Morgan Griffith in the most recent election after voting for a cap-and-trade bill that would placed limits on carbon emissions.

West Virginia's senior senator, Jay Rockefeller (D), has introduced a bill that would suspend efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases for two years.

The Senate is not expected to take up a cap-and-trade bill this year, and that type of legislation would be handled by the Environment and Public Works Committee anyway. But the energy committee oversees a spectrum of energy issues and is likely to focus on energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives this session.

A spokesman for the Energy & Natural Resources Committee said Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.) met with Manchin several times before announcing the committee assignments and that "Bingaman looks forward to working with all the new members."

In addition to Manchin, the Democrats also added Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons to the committee.

The Republicans, meanwhile, placed a lot of newcomers on the committee, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, despite a difficult race in which she had to run as a write-in candidate, is expected to continue serving as ranking member.

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