How Joe Manchin got rich using his 'political influence' to benefit the coal industry: report

How Joe Manchin got rich using his 'political influence' to benefit the coal industry: report

Donald Trump drew a great deal of criticism from environmentalists and Democrats when he displayed his “Trump digs coal” signs during his 2016 presidential campaign, but one Democrat who never said anything negative about Trump’s pro-coal signs was Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The centrist Democrat has been a consistent defender of fossil fuels, and an article by New York Times reporters Christopher Flavelle and Julie Tate takes a look at how profitable coal has been for the 74-year-old senator over the years.

Manchin, Flavelle and Tate note, earned a fortune from a plant in Grant Town, West Virginia, which is 15 miles south of the Pennsylvania state line.

“Mr. Manchin’s ties to the Grant Town plant date to 1987, when he had just been elected to the West Virginia Senate, a part-time job with base pay of $6500,” the Times reporters explain. “His family’s carpet business was struggling. Opportunity arrived in the form of two developers who wanted to build a power plant in Grant Town, just outside Mr. Manchin’s district. Mr. Manchin, whose grandfather went to work in the mines at age nine and whose uncle died in a mining accident, helped the developers clear bureaucratic hurdles.”

According to Flavelle and Tate, Manchin “supplied a type of low-grade coal mixed with rock and clay known as ‘gob’ that is typically cast aside as junk by mining companies but can be burned to produce electricity.”

“In addition, he arranged to receive a slice of the revenue from electricity generated by the plant — electric bills paid by his constituents,” the Times reporters note. “The deal inked decades ago has made Mr. Manchin, now 74, a rich man…. At key moments over the years, Mr. Manchin used his political influence to benefit the plant.”

Manchin, according to Flavelle and Tate, has “blocked legislation that would speed the country’s transition to wind, solar and other clean energy and away from coal, oil and gas, the burning of which is dangerously heating the planet.”

“With the war in Ukraine and resulting calls to boycott Russian gas,” Flavelle and Tate observe, “Mr. Manchin has joined Republicans to press for more American gas and oil production to fill the gap on the world market. But as the Grant Town plant continues to burn coal and pay dividends to Mr. Manchin, it has harmed West Virginians economically, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in excess electricity fees. That’s because gob is a less efficient power source than regular coal.”

Flavelle and Tate point out that although Manchin declined to be interviewed for their article, the Times “spoke with three dozen former business associates, current and former government officials, and industry experts” and went over “thousands of pages of documents from lawsuits, land records, state regulatory hearings, lobbying and financial disclosures, federal energy data and other records spanning more than three decades.”

“The documents and interviews show that at every level of Mr. Manchin’s political career, from state lawmaker to U.S. senator, his official actions have benefited his financial interest in the Grant Town plant, blurring the line between public business and private gain,” according to Flavelle and Tate.

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