Manchin’s Home State Hammered by Climate Change

October 18, 2021

New York Times:

FARMINGTON, W.Va. — In Senator Joe Manchin’s hometown, a flood-prone hamlet of about 200 homes that hugs a curve on a shallow creek, the rain is getting worse.

Those storms swell the river, called Buffalo Creek, inundating homes along its banks. They burst the streams that spill down the hills on either side of this former coal-mining town, pushing water into basements. They saturate the ground, seeping into Farmington’s aging pipes and overwhelming its sewage treatment system.

Climate change is warming the air, allowing it to hold more moisture, which causes more frequent and intense rainfall. And no state in the contiguous United States is more exposed to flood damage than West Virginia, according to data released last week.

From the porch of his riverfront house, Jim Hall, who is married to Mr. Manchin’s cousin, recounted how rescue workers got him and his wife out of their house with a rope during a flood in 2017. He described helping his neighbors, Mr. Manchin’s sister and brother-in-law, clear out their basement when a storm would come. He calls local officials when he smells raw sewage in the river.

“These last few years here in West Virginia, we’ve had unbelievable amounts of rain,” Mr. Hall said. “We’ve seriously considered not staying.”

Mr. Manchin, a Democrat whose vote is crucial to passing his party’s climate legislation, is opposed to its most important provision that would compel utilities to stop burning oil, coal and gas and instead use solar, wind and nuclear energy, which do not emit the carbon dioxide that is heating the planet. Last week, the senator made his opposition clear to the Biden administration, which is now scrambling to come up with alternatives he would accept.

Mr. Manchin has rejected any plan to move the country away from fossil fuels because he said it would harm West Virginia, a top producer of coal and gas. Mr. Manchin’s own finances are tied to coal: he founded a family coal brokerage that paid him half a million dollars in dividends last year.

But when it comes to climate, there’s also an economic toll from inaction.

The new data shows that Mr. Manchin’s constituents stand to suffer disproportionately as climate change intensifies. Unlike those in other flood-exposed states, most residents in mountainous West Virginia have little room to relocate from the waterways that increasingly threaten their safety.

Adding to the problem, West Virginia officials have struggled to better protect residents, despite a surge of federal money, experts say. They point to a reluctance among state officials to even talk about climate change, and to housing that is not built for the challenge, leaving West Virginia less able than other parts of the country to adapt.

The measure that Mr. Manchin opposes, a clean electricity program, may be the last chance for Congress to reduce planet-warming emissions before the effects of climate change become catastrophic.

A clean electricity program would reward utilities that switch from burning oil, gas and coal to using wind, solar and nuclear energy, and penalize those that don’t. It is designed to get 80 percent of the country’s electricity from clean sources by 2030, up from 40 percent now.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin, Sam Runyon, said the senator “has long acknowledged the impacts of climate change in West Virginia. That is why he’s worked hard to find a path forward on important climate legislation that maintains American leadership in energy innovation and critical energy reliability.”

Others say that by blocking efforts to reduce coal and gas use, Mr. Manchin risks hurting his state.


16 Responses to “Manchin’s Home State Hammered by Climate Change”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    “It is designed to get 80 percent of the country’s electricity from clean sources by 2030, up from 40 percent now”

    The US uses about 18.5% renewable electricity; West Virginia 5.5%–half hydro, half wind.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Food for thought . . from The Guardian (of the galaxy)

    “I would say if our civilization doesn’t persist, for whatever reason, and it might be an external event or it might be our own action, nuclear war, whatever it is we decide to inflict on ourselves, it is possible that whoever presses that button eliminates meaning in a galaxy for ever.”

  3. mboli Says:

    I’m coming to think that just maybe Joe Manchin isn’t a team player.
    But I don’t want to jump to conclusions.

    • Mark Mev Says:

      It really depends on which team you are talking about. If you look into where his money comes from, income and campaign, he is a team player. From what I’ve heard, to get him to switch teams, all you need to do is funnel more money to him than the other team. At this point, I just don’t understand why they just won’t do that. May be they can’t buy Sinema off, so it is not worth the effort to get 49 senators??

      • jimbills Says:

        I was wondering the same, but I read this a few days ago:

        Manchin had a large hand in writing the infrastructure bill, and he packed it with WV projects. The ‘deal’, according to Schumer, between the Dem ‘moderates’ and the liberals was that if the moderates supported the reconciliation bill (which has real social programs and a real effort at curbing climate change) the liberals would support the infrastructure bill (which has very little in social programs or climate change action).

        The past few months, Manchin (and Sinema) have been calling for the Democrats to hurry up and support the infrastructure bill, while at the same time throwing wrenches into the process for the reconciliation bill. They’d likely be happiest with no reconciliation bill at all, but the liberals are insistent that the U.S. has real climate change policies and social programs now, and have withheld voting for the infrastructure bill in the House as leverage to get the reconciliation bill.

        The liberals, very likely rightly, believe this is a historic, rare, and fleeting chance to enact those things.

        Sinema is an interesting case. She was actually once a Green Party member and WAS an environmentalist. But since she’s been elected, she seems to be crafting a ‘maverick’ reputation – I assume because that’s what she thinks will get her re-elected in Arizona. She actually is more supportive of the reconciliation bill’s climate policies than its social programs. There was a rumor she wanted to cut money from the climate change part, but she has denied that. It’s probably she’d sign on to the reconciliation bill with a hefty cut in the social programs only.

        The article in The Hill suggests the Biden team is considering adding more social programs to the reconciliation bill to offset the greatly weakened climate change action. This is utter foolishness. They’d likely lose those liberals to whom climate change is a real ‘line in the sand’, and it’s clear Sinema and Manchin wouldn’t support the added social programs, anyway.

        • jimbills Says:

          Note: the infrastructure bill from the Biden Administration originally had climate change measures and social programs. Manchin and Sinema wouldn’t support it, and neither would any Republicans, so the ‘deal’ was cut by Schumer to craft the two separate bills with an informal agreement by the Democrats to pass both – the ‘moderates’ would get an infrastructure bill they wanted, and the liberals would get a reconciliation bill they like.

          The new and greatly pared down infrastructure bill, worked on by Manchin, passed the Senate by large margin – it even had a fair bit of Republican support. It needs to pass the House, but the liberals are holding it back, worried that the ‘moderates’ could then kill the reconciliation bill with no repercussions. It’s really the ONLY thing preventing them from doing so, and they’re trying to kill the reconciliation bill, anyway.

          Bottom line: no reconciliation bill, virtually no U.S. climate change action passed in very rare period when the Democrats actually have a chance to pass it. A greatly weakened reconciliation would mean that much less climate change action.

          • Mark Mev Says:

            Mutually Assured Destruction. I believe the real threat of using this by the liberals is the only way to get even a paired down reconciliation bill. I don’t trust Sinema and Manchin to support anything after a passed infrastructure bill. I also don’t trust Bernie to vote down the infrastructure bill. Sometimes he seems too much like a senator to me (that is an insult).

          • J4Zonian Says:

            What could possibly make anyone think there’s a chance to pass anything meaningful? Those who want to are outnumbered 410 to 25 in the house, and in the senate, about 97 to 3. As far as passing any climate bill at all, which would tacitly accept the fact of climate catastrophe and the need to do something, in the senate it’s 52 determined votes against, to 48 for (3 determined and 45 ready to bolt at the first sign a bill would actually accomplish anything–and every one of them has their own idea about what constitutes “accomplishing enough” to abandon).

            Short of the revolution I’ve been calling for, the only way I can think of to pass bills leading to clean safe renewable energy would be to make it about beating China to the era of already-paid-for energy and higher labor productivity, and thus to reinvigorated global domination. The chances of passing the rest of it without removing about the entire US and most state governments from office are about 0. I’m not sure how anyone can not know that. Hope springs moronic.

          • jimbills Says:

            J4 – I’m well aware that the U.S. can’t and won’t pass what’s actually needed. I’m looking at what is realistically possible for Congress to pass. We’re really only one vote away from something passing. The liberals will fall in line if the reconciliation bill is at least 50% of what is was originally. Of course it won’t be enough. But it’s better than nothing at all, and this is the very rare window where the Democrats, at least on paper, control both Houses of Congress and the Presidency. I personally believe that will change in 2022, closing that window, possibly for a decade plus.

            Thanks for implying I’m a moron.

            Also, your solution will never, ever, ever happen. It’s a pipe dream, held only by you. Who is really being the hopeful one here?

          • J4Zonian Says:

            No, it only appears they’re 1 vote away, because that’s what works for them.* They’re actually 507 votes away; if the 1 voted for anything real 1 of the others would have to vote against it, and if that 1 voted yes, the next 1 would vote no, and so on, because none of them want it, but they don’t want to seem like they don’t. They’re not moderates even with quotes, certainly not liberals. They’re split between a number of outright but secret fascists, 200+neoconservatives, 250+ neoliberals, and maybe 28 progressives.

            Because they have no interest in solving climate catastrophe, any climate bill is designed to seem like it’s trying to solve it while actually it’s all pork and ideology trying hard not to. Sinemanchin and the other 200 right wing Democrats—the ones who know large majorities of the public want a slew of progressive measures**, but have viciously fought them since they forced Wallace out as VP.

            “the ‘moderates’ would get an infrastructure bill they wanted, and the liberals would get a reconciliation bill they like.”

            “virtually no U.S. climate change action passed in very rare period when the Democrats actually have a chance to pass it.”

            Please stop calling them ‘moderates’ and liberals. There are no moderates; there are no liberals. Everyone from the Squad on are right wing; neoliberals at best but only if we understand “neoliberal” is a term used to disguise their radical right wing nature in a country that pretends it’s not an empire.

            As I’ve come around to realizing, without a revolution there was never a chance to pass any real climate action, even though I’ve constantly recalculated the votes, said what we’d have to do, and on and on. That there was no chance became clear when the Democrats chose a non-progressive non-radical platform yet again last election when they would have won massively with a progressive one. They could then have passed anything they wanted. But they don’t want that; it would force them to choose publicly between their donors and their voters, and they will always and forever avoid that; unless the Republicans are equally honest about the gap between what they want and how they sell it, it would be the end of the Democrats. Better to just not quite have the votes in the senate, sorry. They’ve consistently refused to do ANY of the things they could win with—run, and gosh! even rule as progressives, treat Sinemanchin like they did Kucinich, ditch the filibuster, pack the court, declare an emergency, start telling the truth about climate and the actions it will take to fix it…

            When the DNC rigged the early states against Sanders, and the other POTUS candidates—including Warren—all collaborated to wipe him out in favor of Biden, it became even clearer to what lengths both parties would go to prevent the radical changes necessary to avoid global destruction. For looking at math (like the surface reality of “only 1 vote away”) and feeling hope when their full depravity was blatantly obvious to me, I’m the moron. I’ll go on fighting both psychopathy and despair as long as I’m alive, but it will take an awakened US populace to avoid the end of civilization this century and it’s clear that would be flabbergastingly miraculous.

            I don’t hope for or expect anything; I’m only saying what would have to happen for a change in direction. It’s clear that as long as the current rulers have power, nothing will change. Therefore, logically, the only way for anything to change is for enough of the rulers to be removed, or scared that they will be, for a supermajority vote necessary for radical action. It would take going from 3 to 60 progressive Democrats/Socialists/Greens in the Senate, an utterly laughable concept…without the massive determined peaceful revolution.

            *This is mostly not a giant cabal; it’s individuals and various competing but psychologically intertwined groups acting almost entirely unconsciously. Some people in it think they’re a giant cabal but the vast majority of what they do is still unconscious, contradictory, self-sabotaging, and yet overwhelmingly destructive.

            ** universal health care, universal income, much higher taxes on the rich, free/affordable education, stronger union, worker, and environmental protections, and above all, real climate action, though the public is so lost in the lies they don’t know what real climate action would involve.

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