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Manchin, Granholm tour West Virginia; Capito continues infrastructure talks

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin learn about alternative uses for coal in manufacturing. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

MORGANTOWN — Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm wrapped up day two of tours of West Virginia’s coal, natural gas, and clean energy research industries with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, as U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito continued to negotiate on an infrastructure package with the White House.

Manchin, D-W.Va., and Granholm spent the day Friday in Morgantown touring the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the West Virginia Water Research Institute at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy on the Evansdale campus of West Virginia University.

There, Manchin and Granholm met with companies working on alternative uses for coal and natural gas that allows those fossil fuels to still be used while mitigating their greenhouse gas emissions. Afterward, they met with research students working on ways to extract rare earth minerals used in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries from acid mine drainage. Later, the two toured a coal mine.

“It’s been a great two days,” Manchin said. “A lot of people think fossil fuel is done; you can’t use coal no more or gas. Coal and gas are going to be the future building products for America if they’re used in the proper form and carbon-free. That’s what we’re learning and that’s what we know can be done.”

“Thank you, Senator Manchin, for bringing me around opening my eyes to see, first of all, that this is a state is willing to embrace a decarbonized future, that they see an opportunity,” Granholm said. “There’s a sense of urgency of making sure that we understand the importance of decarbonized fossil investment, as well as renewable energy.”

West Virginia University research students show U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm their project to find rare earth minerals on abandoned mine sites. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

Manchin, the former two-term governor of West Virginia, and Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, have been friends for a long time. Those connections are paying off with President Joe Biden appointing Granholm as Secretary of Energy in February. On Thursday, Granholm and Manchin announced a partnership between Huntington-based Steel of West Virginia, Dominion Energy, Orsted Wind Energy, and Eversource to construct a ship to place wind turbines along parts of the U.S. Atlantic coast.

Friday, Manchin and Granholm announced Department of Energy grant funding for research and innovation projects. The WVU Research Corp. will receive $5 million for NETL. Morgantown-based United States Research Impact Alliance, a business incubator for businesses developing solutions for energy and manufacturing companies, will receive $1 million in funding.

Granholm called these projects the “tip of the iceberg,” with more funding coming. The Department of Energy’s Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization identified $38 billion in existing funding to help areas with coal and natural gas production transition to clean energy technologies. The new agency is headed by Brian Anderson, the former director of NETL and former director of WVU’s Energy Institute.

Granholm also said additional funding would be available through Biden’s American Jobs Plan, a $1.7 trillion package aimed at infrastructure investment, including funding for clean energy research and development. Projects would include funding for carbon capture and sequestration demonstration projects.

“In my conversations with Republicans … there is a broad agreement that technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, technologies like hydrogen, and investment in nuclear energy are all part of things that Republicans and Democrats have voted for in the past,” Granholm said. “West Virginia is a prime place to qualify for those demonstration projects to prove it out. And that kind of technology here, I think, would really be a tipping point. A game changer.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announce federal funding for research and innovation at West Virginia University. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

The White House is negotiating the details and cost of an infrastructure package with Capito, R-W.Va., and Senate Republicans, who proposed their own $568 billion infrastructure package. Capito met with Biden this week and had a phone conversation Friday, with negotiations continuing next week.

“During the call, the two discussed the Republican infrastructure framework and the Biden administration’s proposal,” said Capito spokesperson Kelley Moore. “Senator Capito and President Biden agreed to connect again on Monday.”

Manchin has advocated for a bipartisan infrastructure deal between Republicans and the White House. Speaking Friday, Manchin said West Virginia needs to be at the center of infrastructure and climate change policy. He hopes Granholm’s visit to the Mountain State will keep West Virginia in the conversation going forward.

“I’m asking my fellow West Virginians to embrace the change because I think it’ll add more jobs, higher value jobs, and more consistency,” Manchin said. “That’s the story we’re going back with…We are basically at the center of the universe right now of the transition that will go on and we can be at the forefront, but we have to have all the players understanding what’s going to be done.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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