How Coal Countries Are Reacting to Manchin’s Climate Change Agreement

Coal nations are still reeling from Senator Joe Manchin’s (DW.Va.) decision to back a radical climate and energy package that will accelerate the nation’s transition away from coal.

In mountain states, the once-booming coal industry says it feels betrayed, laid-off coal workers rejoice in the benefits of the bill, and Republicans seeking seats in Manchin in 2024 are licking their chops.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes several Appalachian-centric measures. This includes subsidies to build renewable energy projects in former coalfields and a permanent extension of the tax on coal companies that finance the interests of miners suffering from black lung disease.

advocate fought hard On extending the Black Lung Fund — they warned Manchin that profits were at risk when the excise tax expired last year — a landmark for workers who normally do not wield influence in Washington. He welcomed its inclusion as a victory.

“We were surprised. [extension]says Gary Hairston, a 27-year-old former West Virginia coal miner who now heads the National Black Lung Association. “So if we can get it permanently, we might not have to worry about it anymore.”

Meanwhile, the coal industry has attacked Manchin for pushing a policy of making taxes permanent and subsidizing alternative energy sources. The leader of the Appalachian Coal Group, which includes West’s Virginia Coal Institute, wrote: recent letter A consumption tax would cost them tens of millions of dollars, undermine competitiveness, and stabilize energy costs.

“This law is so pernicious that it leaves those of us who still call Senator Manchin a friend to shock and dismay,” they wrote.

Backlash from the coal industry, conservative groups and Republican lawmakers has opened up an opportunity for political challengers ahead of Manchin’s upcoming re-election campaign.

Rep. Alex Mooney (RW.Va.) Placing TV ads It’s clear that a Democratic Senator has accused him of crossing the state’s coal industry and plans to challenge him in 2024.

“Alex Mooney won’t let Joe Manchin and Joe Biden destroy our coal industry and ravage West Virginia,” the ad tells viewers.

Cecil Roberts, a longtime ally of Manchin who heads the United Mine Workers of America, the United States’ largest coal miners’ union, called these criticisms “absolutely bullish” in a recent statement.

He said the bill includes a carbon capture tax credit that could extend the life of coal power plants, allowing $4 billion in tax credits only for companies that create new clean energy jobs in the coal community. said it does.

“I don’t understand how politicians who actually care about the work of West Virginians and the quality of their lives can repeal this bill,” Roberts said. “They should thank Senator Manchin instead of attacking him.”

In response to the West Virginia Coal Institute, Manchin pointed out The sales tax has been extended at the same rate consistently for nearly 40 years, and coal companies can use the $5 billion in funding from the climate bill to increase efficiency, he said.

“The big backlash we’re getting from coal companies right now is having to pay for the Black Lung Fund, which is a shame,” Manchin told reporters on a recent conference call.

Manchin added that despite best efforts to increase coal, coal penetration has declined under both Democratic and Republican presidents, adding that his state has taken advantage of the latest energy technologies. indicates that you need to catch up.

Hundreds of coal-fired power plants have shut down over the past decade, wreaking havoc on Appalachian mining companies as cleaner and more efficient energy sources emerge.

At its peak, the West Virginia coal industry employed more than 125,000 people, but it has shrunk to less than 12,000 in addition to 36,000 independent contractors. according to the estimate From the West Virginia Office of Miner Health, Safety, and Training.

Adoption of clean energy policies has been slow, but the West Virginia legislature recently passed legislation to boost solar projects despite opposition from the coal industry.

The Nature Conservancy and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Published a survey Last year, we found that most West Virginians think the state should reduce its reliance on coal and move to renewable energy sources. This is a big shift in public opinion.

“While this is a traditional energy state, West Virginians are also interested in what the new energy economy can bring to the state in terms of jobs, economic development and economic diversification.” said West Virginia director Thomas Minney. at the Nature Conservancy.

As part of climate action, Mr. Manchin proposed legislation from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D.N.Y.) to expedite the approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which spans hundreds of miles between West Virginia and Virginia. We also agreed to pass the

Manchin says the natural gas pipeline, which has drawn opposition from local environmental and property rights advocates, will create 2,500 jobs in his hometown and help offset coal declines.

Still, given that his popularity skyrocketed around the time he told Democrats he couldn’t support the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, whether red-hot West Virginia will accept Manchin’s climate change deal? is not clear.

Manchin’s approval ratings from Q1 2021 to 2022 17 points up It reached 57%, the largest increase among senators during that period, according to Morning Consult. Nearly seven of hers to his ten of West Virginia Republicans have voiced their support for the Democratic senator who opposed his party’s spending package.

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