CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Typically U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and the West Virginia coal industry. have a tight relationship, but on the Inflation Reduction Act, the industry and Manchin have parted company to a certain degree.
“It’s a massive setback for America’s coal industry,’ said West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton speaking on MetroNews Talkline.
Hamilton was among the signers on a letter which blasted the legislation and offered stinging criticism to Manchin from the leaders of all state coal associations.
“It will make it so much easier for utilities to build out additional renewables at the expense of their coal plants.,” Hamilton said on Talkline.
Hamilton and the coal industry’s problems with the bill didn’t end there.
“It doubles the actual taxation on every ton of coal going forward. It places an assessment against coal at a minimum 15 percent level which hits coal twice as hard as any other business. It fully authorizes and empowers EPA to go after every coal plant in the nation. It subsidizes all of our competing fuels including wind and solar and expands renewable credits and it incorporates nuclear energy into these credits,” he added.
But Senator Manchin was quick to fire back. In a Zoom conference with reporters Thursday, he adamantly denied the claims made by the coal industry. Manchin said the bill is friendly to all fossil fuels and offers an unprecedented opportunity to West Virginia for growth.
Manchin said the doubling of the current tax isn’t something new, it’s the contribution to the black lung fund the industry has been making since the late 1980s. However, those payments have been cut in half in recent years.
“The coal people believe if they have to pay the $1.10 (per ton) into the black lung fund, somehow that’s punishment. The black lung fund has been there for quite some time. In the last few years, they cut it in half,” he said.
Manchin also defended the 15 percent corporate minimum tax rate. According to Manchin the proposal closes a loophole on companies who have managed to find a way to reap massive profits and pay nothing.
“There’s not a coal company in the country that has had those type of revenues to be subjected to the 15 percent minimum. They’re probably paying their fair share,” the Senator said.
He said the 15 percent minimum would actually only apply to about 55 companies and none of those in the coal industry.
“It only applies to a corporation in the United States for the last three years that has averaged one Billion dollars in book revenue. One Billion dollars in revenue, and they’re not going to pay anything?,” he said.
Manchin also noted the measure included completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and provided help to not only coal but all energy resources which would be a boost to West Virginia. The bill included billions of dollars to expand research and development of carbon capture and sequestration.
“We’ve never had a more promising bill where we have a pathway forward to make sure we’re able to produce, and I mean truly produce fossil energy to meet the challenges we have today,” Manchin said.
Hamilton remained unconvinced of the Senator’s optimism.
“While there are a few carrots to incentivize this down the road, the fact of the matter is all of the renewable credits and enhancements for other competing fuels in this bill will make it so much easier for these utilities to fuel switch and close down their coal plants,” Hamilton said.
He hoped to meet with Manchin soon to discuss their concerns and in the narrow window before a vote hoped they could eliminate some of the parts the coal industry found most detrimental. Manchin is due to address the American Coal Associations’ annual meeting this weekend.