From his days as Gov. of West Virginia to his current role as a U.S. senator, Joe Manchin’s political career is one that has had been to the mining industry publicly and personally, particularly coal mining.
On April 15, Manchin was the keynote speaker at the 116th National Western Mining Conference and Exhibit in Denver, CO, presented by the Colorado Mining Association.
Manchin, a Democrat, has adopted an all-of-the-above energy approach, has opposed the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and, oftentimes, his own party on the issues of coal mining and global warming.
In a sweeping speech, Machin said it was imperative that the mining industry work together to “rein in the EPA and stop demonizing the coal industry.”
“There is a saying in politics that you’d better tell your story before someone else tells one against you because it is better to be on offense than defense,” Manchin said. “Right now we are playing defense.”
Manchin has been on the front lines in the defense of coal’s role in providing affordable and reliable energy, and he has opposed strict new emissions rules for coal-fired plants. “Coal is part of who we are and we would not be the superpower that we are if it were not for the fuel and resources that we have right here in our own backyard,” said Manchin, who turned to a chapter of American history to help make his point. “In 1943, Franklin Delano Roosevelt nationalized the coal mines, saying, ‘A stopping of the coal supply, even for a short time, is a gamble with the lives of American soldiers and sailors and the security of our nation.’ That is as true today as it was then, but we are not telling that story the way we should be.”
If the United States was to take coal out of the energy mix, it would do little to cut global emissions, said Manchin. He said the United States consumes about 907 Mt/a (1 billion stpy), while the rest of the world consumes 6.3 Gt/a (7 billion stpy).
Along with U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Manchin is sponsoring a bill that would only allow the EPA to impose regulation standards that have been achieved for 12 straight months at six domestic power plants.
The bill has drawn the support of Democrats from energy-producing states including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Manchin is still working to add cosponsors and hasn’t yet asked for the support of Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Manchin is also deeply involved with mine safety and health.
As governor, he implemented and oversaw large-scale safety reforms to mining operations in West Virginia in response to the Sago Mine disater in 2006. These changes served as the model for the first federal laws in 29 years to make improvements to mine safety. In 2010, he was again thrust into the national spotlight when the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion killed 29 miners in West Virginia.
He told the conference, “I would say to you the most important thing you can do is make sure everyone knows that the safety of each and every miner is number one and that they have the ability to stop that operation when there is something that jeopardizes their life or the life of another. When you have that attitude, I guarantee you will have better production and a better operation. I can tell you the price of the commodity and the equipment. I can’t put a price on a life.”