Manchin talks natural gas at Legislative Breakfast
CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s senior U.S. senator has a lot to say about coal and natural gas, and his new committee position will give him a platform to have his voice heard.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., spoke to attendees by video chat at the West Virginia Press Association’s annual Legislative Breakfast Thursday at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
In December, Manchin was named as the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The two-term senator has served on the committee since 2010 when he was appointed to the committee after winning a special election to replace the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Manchin told the room filled with reporters, editors and publishers that his new position allows him to advocate not just for West Virginia coal and natural gas, but for greater expansion of the nation’s energy potential.
“I’ve got the chance now at my level to make sure the storage hub and the Mid-Atlantic energy region is vital to the security of our nation,” Manchin said.
Manchin recently praised a report from the Department of Energy which looked at three states, including West Virginia, as a possible site for a storage hub for natural gas and byproducts of natural gas used in manufacturing. He also is supportive of pipeline construction to get West Virginia natural gas to market.
“The only thing we needed to show last year was video and all the pictures of the Russian tankers going into Boston harbor delivering (liquid natural gas),” Manchin said. “People have no idea we can’t get the product up there. We’re fighting to get pipelines down into the southern regions.”
Major pipeline projects traversing the state have run into roadblocks from environmental groups and court orders. One project, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, would cross a part of the Appalachian Trail. In January, a decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a decision by a three-judge panel that had put a stop to the pipeline project.
“When people think of crossing, they say ‘they’re going to go over the top and cut over the trail.’ No, they’re not,” Manchin said. “They’re going 80-feet below. They’re going in on private property and coming out on private property and it doesn’t destroy the trail. If you’re on the trail, you’d never see it.”
Manchin said he plans to push back against any legislation that creates what some call a “Green New Deal.” A joint resolution introduced Thursday by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., calls for switching to 100 percent renewable energy.
“It’s people who want to stop anything having to do with fossil fuels,” Manchin said. “The Green New Deal, you’ve heard about that? That shuts everybody down. They think in 10 years we can be down to no gas, no coal, no oil, no nothing. That is not feasible, not practical, and it’s not going to happen.”
According to Manchin, 50 percent of the energy generated by India and China is coming from coal-fired utilities. Until new technologies are developed to make coal cleaner to burn, Manchin said there is very little leverage the U.S. has to influence the behavior of serial polluters.
“We have to find the technology and develop the technology and distribute this technology across the world,” Manchin said. “You can’t force India and China to use what we think should be used to stop the pollution unless you use your trade agreements and your tariffs. We’re going to have to find a new path forward.”
Manchin spoke for about 16 minutes before leaving to prepare for a hearing Thursday in the Energy Committee. Senators heard from Jim Wood, the interim director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, on the outlook of energy innovation in the U.S.