Conservative coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) announced on Wednesday that he plans to oppose every nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from President Joe Biden over an upcoming proposal aimed at addressing the climate crisis by requiring emissions cuts from coal and fossil gas power plants.
This week, the EPA is planning to unveil proposals for rules that would place new limits on the amount of greenhouse gasses that power plants are allowed to emit. If implemented, the rules could help the U.S. take a step toward Biden’s goal and climate experts’ recommendations to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by 50 percent by the end of the decade to have a chance at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Some people familiar with the proposal say that plants may need to rely on the use of carbon capture technology to meet emissions reductions requirements. Carbon capture technologies, which are often backed by Big Oil, have historically underperformed at the goal of reducing carbon emissions and have helped to prop up the profits of the fossil fuel industry.
The proposal would be one of the very few moves that Biden has taken so far to address the climate crisis while in office, with the president having chosen to break his climate pledges more than he has chosen to uphold them.
Nonetheless, Manchin, a longtime foe of those wishing to maintain a liveable climate on earth, has come out strongly against the proposal, the details of which have not yet been unveiled.
In a statement proudly entitled “Manchin to oppose every EPA nominee,” the right-wing Democrat criticized the attempt to draw down greenhouse gas emissions. He said that it was part of the administration’s “radical climate agenda” (that climate advocates say has yet to materialize) to “eliminate coal today or in the near future” (which climate advocates say is a worthy climate goal that the new proposal would, nonetheless, not come close to doing on its own).
Manchin, the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called the EPA’s regulation of climate emissions an “overreach” and said, without evidence, that the administration is moving to “kill the fossil industry by a thousand cuts.” The EPA is mandated by law to regulate power plant emissions under the Clean Air Act.
The EPA responded that it is not backing down in response to Manchin’s threat. “[W]e have been clear from the start that we will use all of our legally-upheld tools, grounded in decades-old bipartisan laws, to address dangerous air pollution and protect the air our children breathe today and for generations to come,” the EPA said in a statement.
Manchin has been resisting even the mildest climate-related moves from the Biden administration, due in part to his deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, as well as his own personal financial stake in coal.
He threatened to sue the administration in March over its interpretation of electric vehicle tax credits qualifications under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which he has also threatened to vote to repeal. And, in November, he snapped back at Biden after the president suggested that wind and solar energies could be replacing coal — which has been declining on its own, even with government intervention to save it.
Legislatively, Manchin remains one of the only figures standing firmly between the U.S. and climate action. Last year, Manchin dealt the killing blow to a major climate package that Democrats were hoping to pass through the Senate, after spending months obstructing the bill’s package. Then, when he announced that he had come to an agreement with Democratic leaders on the IRA, which contained some mild wins for the climate movement, he insisted that Democrats also pass a huge pro-oil and gas proposal that climate advocates have had to organize to kill several times now.
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