It’s no secret that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has been an ardent supporter of fossil fuels for ten years in the Senate. Barely blue-dog-democrat now almost solely responsible for delaying progress on the $ 3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill as it pushes for major changes in how the bill will put the country on a cleaner energy path by 2030.
But while the West Virginia senator’s ties to coal and oil open and evidentThey are not the only polluters that have helped Manchin hold on to power. The utilities industry – especially utilities that rely on fossil fuels – have been an understudied major contributor to Manchin’s career, and he fulfills some of their important wish list items when it comes to this bill.
Utilities were Joe Manchin’s seventh largest in his entire career, according to OpenSecrets. common donor by industryimmediately following the oil and gas industry (oil companies gave Manzhou $ 670,945 and utilities $ 647,452). Manchin, in fact, second largest recipient of communal money in the Senate so far for the 2022 electoral cycle (Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wins first place).
The Harmonization Bill has a powerful tool for decarbonizing utilities known as the Electricity Efficiency Program or CEPP. This section of the package defines what counts as clean energy and establishes a system that allows utilities to decarbonize at a rate that will help the country meet President Joe Biden’s stated goals of 80% carbon-free energy by 2030. like PSEG, publicly supported a proposal that utilities would be financially rewarded for tidying up their energy supply structure. But some of Manjin’s largest donors oppose the proposal.
American Electric Power, a large investor-owned utility company that provides services in 11 states, including West Virginia, was the loudest utility company to voice concerns about the bill. Although the AEP site claims that climate change is a “key issue” for a company, a utility sent a letter to MPs in September complaining that CEPP will force utilities to shut off dirty fuel too quickly. (It’s worth noting that AEP, like other utilities, promoting climate denial, and was ALEC member until 2016)
Between 2010 and 2014 PAC AEP donated $ 70,000 to Manchin’s PAC, Shows FEC data. Nick Akins, the general manager of the utility, also has a special relationship with Manchin. As the New York Times writes reported in SeptemberManchin and Akins are buddies: they have each other’s personal cell phone numbers, and Manchin, according to the Times, “listens carefully” to what Akins has to say on the bill. Akins told the newspaper that he believes utilities are being forced to ditch fossil fuels. way too fast. He argued that the federal government shouldn’t punish companies that don’t take their actions away, instead letting them take their time to get to them.
In the past, Akins has supported his friend with financial support from his own pocket. Manchin was elected in early elections in 2010 and was due for re-election in 2012. In 2010 and 2011, Akins personally gave a total of $ 3,500 for the Manchin elections of the PKK. (Several other AEP staff members, including Chairman Michael Morris, also gave Manjin during this time.)
Manchin and Akins are actually such pals that the CEO interviewed the senator in June at a conference hosted by the Edison Electric Institute, the leading utility lobbying body (and, along with AEP and other utilities, big historical culprit in climate denial)… The conference was titled “The Road to Zero,” but Manchin seized the opportunity during his speeches to support coal and question Biden’s timetable to phase out fossil fuels. Akins introduced Manchin to the crowd as “no more important, not only to our country, but to our industry as well.”
AEP is not the only supporter of Manchin pushing for simplifying the dirty utility bill. The National Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, an organization representing 900 small electric cooperatives across the country, is also objected at CEPP. This group’s PAC donated $ 25,000 to Manchin PAC between 2010 and 2017. American Public Authority Association, another a group of utilities that opposed the CEPP, aired Manchin twice in 2010 and 2015 for a total of $ 1,750.
Other donations show how the coal and mining industry, historically one of Manchin’s top backers and loudest supporters, can team up with smaller utilities to achieve similar goals against larger clean energy initiatives. America’s Power, a coalition of rural utilities, railroads, and coal companies, directed letter lawmakers in September condemning how the CEPP will eliminate coal by 2030, arguing that coal “will be needed for the foreseeable future.” Michelle Bloodworth, the group’s president, in the letter also justified the continued use of coal in the US as “China’s coal fleet continues to grow.” (Eight days later China announced he will no longer fund coal-fired energy overseas, gradually approaching the closure of power plants at home.)
FEC data show that at least one member of the group, mining company Peabody Energy, paid Manchin PAC $ 15,500 between 2010 and 2017 (Manchin earned more than $ 5 million in dividends last year from a coal company he founded back in the 1980s, so he has a personal stake in seeing utilities continue to use coal.)
Even what appears to be Build Back Better support by some industry groups may come with dirty fuel conditions. Asked about E&E News Bill in September EEI said he supports what he called a “well-designed” clean energy standard that the lobbying group said included a lot of room for natural gas in the energy mix until 2030. aggressively promotes natural gas play a big role in the clean energy program and say that it “should be” included. The group also told the Financial Times that the CEPP timeline was complex and “arbitrary”, although analysis showed that the timeline gives the world 50-50 shots in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and may not be aggressive enough… Between 2010 and 2018, EEI provided Manchin PAC with $ 15,500.
Several of Manchin’s other big dirty donors, including companies like FirstEnergy, have so far been publicly silent on the bill. But that doesn’t mean they don’t work behind the scenes to influence decisions in one way or another. And, as we’ve seen consistently in recent years, utilities can be decisive players when it comes to energy policy; after all, it makes no sense for a politician like Manchin to create lifebuoys for coal if there are no power plants willing to buy it. Given the history of these companies in using donations for political gain and suppression of oppositionas well as the way we see their desires being fulfilled right now on the hill, it may be time to subject them to the same attention as other dirty industries.