“You can be the hero one day and the villain the next day…” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Thursday about the political arena because it all depends “on how people see things.”
Manchin was referring to the Inflation Reduction Act in general and the perceived impact on the coal industry specifically.
He also responded to some of the disagreements on the act he has with his colleague, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
The $739 billion act, which is a compromise deal among Pres. Joe Biden and Senate Democrats that Manchin helped broker for the fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation bill, will invest about $300 billion in Deficit Reduction and $369 billion in Energy Security and Climate Change programs over the next 10 years.
In order to pay the costs, the act includes a minimum 15 percent corporate tax, a point of contention for many, and it includes funding for Black Lung benefits.
The bill was attacked in a letter from the America’s State Coal Association, which includes the West Virginia Coal Association.
The letter said, in part, that the “legislation will serve to severely threaten American coal and the $261 billion of annual revenue that it produces for the nation’s overall economy and attendant 381,000 American jobs.”
West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton called the bill “egregious.”
The letter went on to say the bill would “quickly diminish our coal producing operations and all but obviate any need to renovate coal assets.”
Capito also has blasted the bill’s impact on the coal industry, saying Thursday it is aimed at accelerating green energy ad decelerating fossil fuel use.
“There’s a huge green energy, I’m not anti-green energy, but it is overtaken in this bill,” she said. “It will hurt our industries in West Virginia, our hard working men and women in oil and gas business or in coal business. That will also, I think, hamper our energy security in this country.”
She has also said pumping more federal money into the economy will exacerbate inflation, not lower it, and the impact of the 15 percent minimum corporate tax will add to inflation and hurt residents because because corporations don’t absorb losses, they pass on the extra expense to customers.
Manchin responded quickly to the association’s letter and sent his own letter to Hamilton to “clarify” Hamilton’s “misunderstanding” about the impact of the bill.
In that letter, he said he has never wavered in his support for the coal industry and the bill actually helps assure the industry will continue, helping it thrive in “new energy opportunities of tomorrow,” like carbon sequestration, which opens up other uses for coal.
The traditional coal industry has declined, he said, even as attempts have been made to stop that decline.
“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to the contrary, the industry has consistently declined under both Democratic and Republican administrations,” he said. “Even President Trump, who promised to bring back all the coal jobs, could not could not stop the decline. When he took office in January 2017, there were 51,000 coal jobs in America. When he left office in January 2021, there were only 38,000. That was not President Trump’s fault. The truth is that over the last decade, coal has gone from more than 37 percent of our generation mix to less than 22 percent. That’s exactly why I have fought so hard to ensure that coal miners, coal communities, and responsible coal companies can continue to provide reliable, essential baseload energy today and participate in the new energy opportunities of tomorrow. and that is exactly what the Inflation Reduction Act does.”
Manchin said the bill includes incentives that would benefit coal.
Those benefits, he said, include increasing the value of the 45Q CCUS tax credit and providing direct pay for the first five years to help fossil plants.
“This is in contrast to the electricity tax credits that benefit renewables, which do not have direct pay,” he said. “In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act creates a new $5 billion energy infrastructure reinvestment financing program that can help existing coal-powered plants perform upgrades to do things like improve their efficiency, adopt environmental controls like scrubbers, and adopt CCUS equipment. This is on top of the $8.5 billion we provided for CCUS and related necessary infrastructure in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, for which several funding announcements have been released. In addition, the Rhodium Group has estimated that the Inflation Reduction Act will decrease annual household heating and electricity costs by between $41 and $232 in 2030.”
Manchin said the bill also “expands the bipartisan 48C investment tax credit for clean energy manufacturers and has $4 billion reserved for use exclusively in coal communities to attract new investments and create new opportunities for our workforce.”
“It makes the use of other energy tax credits more valuable if you use them in coal communities,” he said. “And it permanently secures essential healthcare benefits for coal miners who contract black lung – rates that are unfortunately on the rise – from breathing too much coal and silica dust while they risk their lives to mine the coal that keeps our lights on … We have to take care of our coal miners.”
Manchin also disputed the association’s claim the act will give the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) an “unbridled ability” to regulate greenhouse gasses and coal assets as they see fit.
“The Inflation Reduction Act does not provide any new authority for EPA to shut down coal plants or to require ‘generation shifting.’” he said. “The text does not grant EPA any new authority to do anything to power plants or coal facilities that Congress has not already authorized.”
Manchin also said the act “contains no new taxes” and will not raise taxes for those making $200,000 or less a year, a criticism he calls “an outright lie.”
“Let me be clear, the Inflation Reduction Act contains no new taxes, let alone subject mining companies to a higher level of taxation than other American businesses or cost them tens of millions of dollars in new taxes,” he said. “Instead, it raises revenue by closing loopholes that allow the largest and most profitable corporations in America to pay little or nothing to support our great country. It simply requires the 200 or so largest companies that, for the last 3 years, make more than $1 billion each year to pay at least a 15 percent tax rate. This is well below both the current corporate tax rate (21 percent) and the average tax rate for hardworking Americans (22 percent), but I do not believe that even this commonsense tax reform would impact any of your member companies.”
Manchin said his staff analyzed the financial statements of the two largest U.S. coal companies – Peabody Energy and Arch Resources, Inc. – and neither were “anywhere close to the $1 billion average needed to trigger the 15 percent corporate minimum.”
He said 55 large corporations in the country “are paying zero” corporate tax.
The act also secures a commitment to “pass permitting reform legislation that would benefit all domestic energy sources, including coal and other fossil fuels. This legislation also contains a provision that requires the President to designate and prioritize projects of strategic national importance, including a set number related to fossil fuels, such as coal.”
“Inaction will not reverse the trends that we have seen in the coal industry under both Republican and Democratic leadership at the federal level,” he said. “We have no choice but to focus on innovation, diversification of both uses for our coal and for our economy, new opportunities for our communities, and taking care of the families who have sacrificed so much for their fellow Americans. I will not apologize for taking action to give this industry and our coal communities every opportunity I possibly can to survive and thrive in new ways. The Inflation Reduction Act meets this moment but don’t just take my word for it. I encourage you to read it for yourself.”
Manchin also said the act is not “pumping more money into the economy” but investing money for the future.
Much of the criticism, he said, are Republican “talking points” and not based on the facts.
“People are looking for everything they can to villainize,” he said. “It’s hard to bring people together.”
Manchin said he is being criticized by the right and the left, so the act has hit a “sweet spot.”
“This is a great piece of legislation,” he said.
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org