After bipartisan rebuff, Manchin abandons private legislative deal to help fossil fuel projects
Published April 29 2018 10:58AM
State Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced Tuesday he will no longer support a potential private legislative deal on environmental issues if it requires the state to pay millions of dollars from state coffers to help big fossil fuel projects such as a new export terminal.
In an email to members made public Tuesday, Manchin said the deal, negotiated between legislative leaders on one side and the Sierra Club, a fossil fuel group, on the other, would have required the state to pay up to $300 million to support an export facility for West Coast natural gas. Manchin said he would not sign on to the controversial agreement that was presented to the Senate on Monday night.
“I have not decided if I will support this legislation,” he wrote in the email. “If I do not sign the bill, I won’t help it pass, and I will have taken a step back so we can all better see exactly what it is that the Legislature is doing.”
The Sierra Club had argued the bill would have cost the state nothing, given its current tax treatment of natural gas. But legislators wanted to ensure that, as a condition for the bill, the state not only had to pay for the facilities, but that they had to be owned by a third party like a utility or investor in the future, said the Sierra Club’s president, Bill Sisson, in a meeting Tuesday. “We were always going to leave that as a condition of being able to sign,” he added.
“Now they can say no,” said Manchin about the possibility of signing the bill.
Manchin’s decision follows a bipartisan vote Tuesday morning to reject the bill in a vote that went nearly 12-5.
At issue were private provisions that would have given the state the option of paying to build facilities that could be used to import and export the fossil fuels. Manchin said in his statement that he opposes those private provisions and will not take a role in drafting them in the future.