By Alex Thomas
February 11, 2019 - West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, (D), put forward his agenda as the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during the body’s first hearing last week on Capitol Hill.
Manchin, who previously served as the ranking member of the Energy Subcommittee, spoke about energy development as well as addressing climate change and related acts.
“We as a committee can contribute pragmatic solutions to the climate challenges facing our country and the world,” he said.
West Virginia ranks fifth among states regarding total energy production; according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, West Virginia was the second-largest coal producing state in 2017 behind Wyoming, with West Virginia making up around 11 percent of the United States’ total coal production.
“For that reason, other states depend on us for reliable electric generation, as well as coal and natural gas production,” Manchin said. “In fact, West Virginia is the seventh-largest producer of marketable natural gas in the nation.”
The EIA additionally reports West Virginia produced 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2017. Manchin said there is an opportunity for further growth in the energy sector with a natural gas storage hub located in Appalachia; Manchin and other West Virginia lawmakers have pushed such facility due to the Marcellus and Utica shale formations’ location in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“This innovative regional storage and distributing hub would attract manufacturing investment, create jobs and reduce the rejection rate of natural gas liquids to the ethane, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the senator said.
Manchin also focused part of his time on the importance of combating climate change, an issue some have argued Manchin lacks strength in addressing.
“Beyond my state’s leadership in energy production, I know my state is committed — I know all of West Virginia is committed to solving the climate crisis. The impacts of climate change are felt in every economy and every community across the world, and that includes my state of West Virginia,” he said.
“I have never met a West Virginian who wants to drink dirty water or breathe dirty air. The urgent need to clean up our climate is felt by everyone, and there is no reason rural America cannot be part of the cleaner energy solutions we are working towards,” Manchin added. “We must work together to solve the problem, and act now to lead the world in the commercialization of carbon-reducing energy technology that keeps energy generation resources cost competitive and reliable 24/7.”
Manchin mentioned West Virginia’s 2016 flood, in which 23 people died, and other flooding events in state as evidence of climate change’s effects.
“There is no silver bullet, but I’ve spoken to Chairman (Lisa) Murkowski (of Alaska). I look forward to innovation discussions and expected climate hearings to see how this committee can tribute to the pragmatic solutions that will work for every American,” he said.
Progressive Democrats opposed Manchin’s appointment to the committee when it was announced in December, arguing Manchin would not do enough to address climate change.
Manchin approved President Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017, saying a balance is needed between economic and environmental needs. He also backed the Trump administration’s move a year later aimed at preventing the retirement of coal and nuclear facilities, stating the country needs to ensure its electrical grid can operate without interruptions from weather or other threats.
Manchin said Tuesday last month’s snap of cold weather was evidence why the nation’s energy reservoirs need to be maintained.
“Why the system performed well, rising natural gas demand made it economical to bring on coal to keep the lights on and homes warm. And coal will continue to be a critical part of the fuel mix in extreme weather situations like this,” Manchin said. “Even in states with aggressive clean energy coals, if it gets cold, we’re still all going to need to work together.”
Manchin also said China and India should be encouraged to take on new technologies allowing coal and natural gas to be used in ways better for the environment.