A new investigation has revealed that coal baron and chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and his wife have been hard at work funneling millions of dollars into preserving a small valley in West Virginia where the couple owns property – even as the senator has blocked climate initiatives over the years.
The Intercept finds in an article published Monday that, together, Joe and Gayle Manchin have directed over $15 million into the Canaan Valley in northeastern West Virginia, where they have owned a condo in the town of Davis since 2011.
The condo, around which Joe Manchin goes fishing, is surrounded by nature preserves like Blackwater Falls State Park and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of several properties owned by the couple which, together, are worth between $4.5 million and $12.8 million as of 2020.
The investigation reveals that both Joe and Gayle Manchin have used their political influence to direct money into the area.
In 2018, the senator secured $7 million in legislation written by the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member, to rebuild the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center less than a mile away from his property. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which works to preserve the valley and stock waterways that Joe Manchin fishes in, uses part of that visitor center as offices, Daniel Boguslaw writes for The Intercept.
The senator again funneled money into the reserve this year, securing $8 million to build a new water treatment plant in the valley through his spot on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
Gayle Manchin, meanwhile, last year got $25,000 for water analysis projects in the valley and, in May, got a $1.2 million grant awarded to the area to build trails around the region. She was nominated by Joe Biden last year to co-chair the Appalachian Regional Commission, which oversees millions of dollars in grants.
While Joe Manchin has worked to preserve the Canaan Valley, however, he has simultaneously worked to destroy the environment elsewhere in the state and the country.
“For Manchin to go to a place where I find peace, to this protected space, a place that was protected in the spirit of preservation, and siphon off a little piece for himself — it’s disgusting,” Dave Scott, an organizer with West Virginia Rising, told The Intercept of the Canaan Valley.
“He’s turned the rest of a state we used to call ‘almost heaven’ into almost hell. He opened up the mountaintops, the old mine shafts; he opened up the underground strata for more leaching and more fracking,” Scott continued. “When he became governor, he even tried to change our slogan from ‘Wild and Wonderful’ to ‘Open for Business.’”
Recently, Manchin announced that he will not vote for the Democrats’ new reconciliation bill if it includes spending on the climate crisis, dooming what could be the party’s – and the planet’s – last best chance to pass climate legislation for years, if not decades.
While it was a devastating announcement, it’s perhaps not surprising; Joe Manchin has hinged his career and personal bank account on protecting and expanding the use of fossil fuels in West Virginia and beyond.
Besides watering down and killing last year’s Build Back Better Act, which at one point contained funding for climate proposals, Joe Manchin also recently obstructed climate action by announcing his opposition to Biden’s Federal Reserve Board nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin. Raskin is a staunch climate advocate who argues that the Fed should be doing more to mitigate the risks that the climate crisis poses to the economy.
In response to the senator’s recent climate obstruction, lawmakers have called for him to be removed from his role as the chair of the influential Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is charged with overseeing energy policy and public lands.
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