After bipartisan rebuff, Manchin abandons private legislative deal to help fossil fuel projects
A bill by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and other GOP senators to prohibit the use of coal in new power plants drew bipartisan opposition Tuesday, the day before the Senate is supposed to vote on the measure.
S.616 (WV. H.B. 1223) would prevent the use of coal to generate electricity, except for the combustion of coal in existing utility plants to create synthetic fossil fuels. Manchin offered to join other Senate Republicans in a legislative package that would establish a national energy policy, but the vote was defeated on a party-line vote of 59-39.
The bill also was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House.
The measure passed the House on August 30 by a vote of 205-19 in favor, with nine Republicans joining all but three Democrats in supporting it. The measure cleared the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday on a vote of 11-0. It will now advance to the full House for a vote.
The Senate bill would have applied, for the first time, to existing utilities. The House bill would have established a national energy policy.
The West Virginia bill is the first legislative attempt at comprehensive energy policy enacted since Republicans assumed control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2011. The proposed Senate bill drew bipartisan support from both parties during the special session, but was killed when House Republicans, who generally are not known to have strong energy positions, adopted it in its entirety. On the Senate side, Senate Majority Leader Bill Carpenter of Montgomery County, a Republican representing a coal-producing state, voted for the bill but then voted against the House version.
Manchin initially introduced the West Virginia bill as H.B. 1323, which would have banned new coal-fired power plants until the federal Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies addressed water quality and air emissions issues to ensure water supplies weren’t harmed. H.B. 1323 ultimately was expanded to include language supporting federal efforts to preserve energy sources that don’t involve greenhouse gas emissions and was ultimately adopted as S.616 (W.Va. H.B. 1223