Joe Manchin Explains His Problem With Climate Rules in Joe Biden's $3.5T Plan

President Joe Biden and Democrats are pushing forward with a sweeping $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that includes landmark measures to tackle climate change and reduce emissions.

It includes a nationwide clean-electricity program intended to eliminate fossil fuel emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035.

Some of the climate proposals—as well as the hefty price tag—have been a sticking point for Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who wants to protect jobs in the coal-producing state.

Manchin has been particularly opposed to the proposed Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would pay utilities to switch to clean energy.

He detailed some of his concerns during an oversight hearing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday. "There's a wide agreement that we need to address climate change but less agreement on how, how fast and at what cost," Manchin, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said during his opening remarks.

"In my view, the only way to do it is without sacrificing reliability and affordability is with policies that spur innovation not elimination."

He continued: "It makes no sense to take tools out of the toolbox because we know that none of these energy resources are 100 percent immune to weather disruptions, whether that be freezing wind turbines, disruption to our natural gas production and delivery systems or frozen coal stockpiles, all of which we saw happen last winter.

"We have to maintain a diverse and reliable energy mix with the technologies necessary to reduce our emissions, because when the sun sets in the middle of a regional Heatwave, people expect grid operators and utilities to have firm generation ready to go."

Manchin said energy reliability would be "the big loser" if grants are given to power providers to transition to clean energy.

"I guarantee you the utilities will take every dime you want to give them, but they will not commit and basically be held accountable for reliability," Manchin said, according to E&E News. "And then they're going to have to buy it somewhere, and the consumers are going to pay. That's my problem."

Manchin also voiced concerns that a rapid transition could hurt West Virginian coal workers unless capture and storage technology is developed further.

"I can tell you the transition is going to happen, and people in West Virginia realize that. Just don't leave us behind," he said.

Manchin raised similar concerns about protecting the coal industry in West Virginia during a conversation hosted by The National Press Club in April.

"As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, ensuring our coal miners aren't left behind as America transitions to a cleaner energy future is one of my top priorities," he said.

"While the industry has been in a steady downturn in job opportunities, maintaining those good paying jobs as we reduce emissions is both possible and it's our responsibility."

He added that he was "for innovation, not elimination" and argued that other countries would continue operating carbon-emitting coal mines even if the U.S. stopped. "It's not called North America climate, it's not called West Virginia climate, it's global climate, and there's more fossil being used in the world today than ever before."

He added: "If you want to clean up the climate, if you want to help Mother Earth, then you better advanced carbon capture sequestration and utilization."

Manchin also stressed during that conversation that measures to help coal miners must be part of infrastructure packages that were being crafted in Congress.

"You can't leave anybody behind, and we have been left behind," he said. "I can tell you how West Virginia feels. We feel like returning Vietnam veterans. We've done every dirty job you've asked us to do. We never questioned. We did it and performed well. And now all of a sudden we're not good enough, we're not clean enough, we're not green enough and we're not smart enough. You want to know why they quit voting for Democrats? That's the reason.″

Joe Manchin listens during Senate committee
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) listens during a Senate Armed Services Committee on Afghanistan, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on September 28, 2021. Manchin has been particularly opposed to the proposed Clean Electricity Performance Program. Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images