The Coal Baron Blockade

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 09 Apr 2022 13:00:00 GMT

On April 9th we will engage in a mass, nonviolent direct action at the power plant that burns all of Senator Joe Manchin’s fossil fuel – where he earns $500,000 per year while killing climate legislation.

Through a large-scale act of civil disobedience that “breaks through” the noise and the social media clutter, we can not just move one specific player, but shake the ground on which the game is played. We can help elevate climate change to the center of the domestic agenda – and make this crisis impossible for the White House and Congress to ignore.

We chose the Grant Town Power Plant specifically because we need the world to know how corrupt Joe Manchin is. He is not some thoughtful, grandfatherly, moderate. He is raking in $500,000 per year from his coal company while single-handedly gutting climate legislation. He also directed his appointees to raise electricity rates on us working-class West Virginians in order to keep his coal business afloat.

Join the blockade



Analysis: $95 Billion Manchin Energy Infrastructure Act Is Heavily Biased Against Renewable Energy

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 13 Jul 2021 19:58:00 GMT

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the chair of the Senate energy committee, has released the text of his Energy Infrastructure Act, which will undergo committee markup tomorrow.

An analysis by Friends of the Earth finds only $410 million in funding for renewable wind, solar, geothermal and tidal energy but nearly $30 billion for non-renewable energy programs.

Even the investments in storage and energy efficiency are less than half of spending in polluting energy.

The legislation proposes to make $95 billion in infrastructure investments mainly concentrated in the energy sector. But a close look at exactly where the money is going to go reveals an undeniable bet on dirty energy from the 20th century over clean energy from the 21st. In fact, the bill authorizes $28.8 billion in nuclear, carbon capture and dirty hydrogen over only $410 million in direct authorizations for wind, solar, geothermal and tidal. That’s a ratio of dirty to renewables of over 70-to-1. Even when combining the renewable provisions with the bill’s meager storage and efficiency programs, Manchin still proposes spending twice as much on dirty than he does on clean.

Most of the language for the carbon capture text was taken from the SCALE (Storing CO2 and Lowering Emissions) Act from Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.).

The nuclear provisions were drawn from the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

The fossil & polluting energy provisions include:
  • $12.6 billion for carbon capture projects, including financing for carbon-dioxide pipelines used for enhanced oil recovery to extend the life of oil wells.
  • $6 billion for subsidy payments to the nuclear industry to extend the lifetime of aging plants past economic viability.
  • $7 billion in research and development from hydrogen programs; 95 percent of hydrogen production is from fracked gas.
  • $1.9 billion in subsidies for commercial logging on public lands
On the storage and energy-efficiency side, provisions include:
  • $6 billion for battery production: minerals mining, processing, manufacturing, and recycling
  • $3.5 billion for the low-income energy efficiency efforts under the Weather Assistance Program

In addition, there is a further giveaway to the coal industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the text: a 20% cut to the Abandoned Mine Land fee paid by the coal industry.

Senior ExxonMobil lobbyist Keith McCoy revealed to a journalist posing as a corporate recruiter that Manchin holds weekly calls with Exxon. He named Coons and Barrasso as two other “crucial” allies to the oil giant’s agenda.

Manchin Announces His Plan to Cede Control of Senate to "100% Wrong" Mitch McConnell

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 07 Jun 2021 08:25:00 GMT

Over the weekend, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) embraced the Republican filibuster, giving Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) veto power over all future legislation.

Manchin, the chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, penned an essay in the Charleston Gazette-Mail unequivocally stating, “I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”

Current Senate rules require 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, which gives Republicans veto power in the 50-50 Senate. In May, McConnell announced that “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”

In an interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday, Manchin sharply criticized McConnell’s partisan obstruction: “I think he’s 100% wrong in trying to block all the good things that we’re trying to do for America.”

In his essay, Manchin repeatedly invoked the possibility of bipartisanship as his justification for rejecting legislation such as the voting-rights For the People Act (H.R. 1).

However, Manchin also admitted there are only seven Republicans, not ten, that are willing to even potentially break with Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump.
Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy

Manchin’s low threshhold for bipartisanship – opposing Trump’s incitement of insurrection that led to an assault on the Senate chambers – was met by only seven Republicans. The vote required a 2/3 majority to convict Trump, but failed 57-43.

Manchin said to Wallace he’s aware of the numbers: “[W]e have seven brave Republicans that continue to vote for what they know is right and the facts as they see them, not worrying about the political consequences.”

He has not explained how 57 votes is sufficient to break a filibuster, since it’s not.

To wit: at the end of May, McConnell and 34 other Republicans successfully filibustered the legislation to create a bipartisan committee to investigate the attack on our democracy.

Green New Appalachia: The Smart Way To Sell Climate Action To Joe Manchin

Posted by Billy Fleming Fri, 08 Jan 2021 04:40:00 GMT

This post is an expanded version of a Twitter thread.

With the pair of Democratic U.S. Senate victories in Georgia, the Democratic Party will have control of the White House and both chambers of Congress come January 20th. West Virginia’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, will become the chair of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and will hold tremendous power over any climate legislation.

While I’m sure that part of bribing Manchin to go along with a series of climate bills as bold as President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign platform will require funds for coal-industry boondoggles like direct air capture and carbon-capture sequestration, as well as for advanced nuclear technology, we ought to be a bit more creative than that.

Here are a few other ideas to consider:
  • New funds for building pumped hydroelectric storage facilities in Appalachia. These use abandoned coal mines to create a low-tech battery for renewable energy storage, pumping water into the uphill mines when production is high and releasing it through turbines when it wanes.
  • Ending the federal grant program that incentivizes converting abandoned strip mines into federal prisons. Those funds should go toward building up the clean energy and electrovoltaic manufacturing facilities in Appalachia on sites that have already been cleared or flattened sites that are adjacent to transportation infrastructure.
  • Decommissioning the network of prisons in Appalachia, converting their onsite and resilient electricity generation infrastructure into community-based electric co-ops. Every prison there has the ability to island itself off from the grid and power itself. Give that power to the people of Appalachia.
  • Investing in the now-closed north-south railway that could connect Appalachia to Atlanta in the South, Pittsburgh to the North, Columbus and St. Louis to the West, and the entire northeast corridor to the East. A massive corridor already exists and just needs track upgrades for it to be active.
  • Offering Appalachia up as the first pilot site for a new Climate Conservation Corps that puts people to work capping orphaned wells, remediating brownfield and other toxic sites, and reforesting the hiking, hunting, and other recreational landscapes of the region.

The best part of it all is that “bribing” Joe Manchin to go along with a more progressive climate agenda is really just a way of driving investment to some of the people and places that need it most—in this case, Central Appalachia.

Billy Fleming is the Wilks Family Director of the Ian L. McHarg Center in the Weitzman School of Design. and a senior fellow with Data for Progress.