Joe manchin climate change

Peter Dykstra: Joe the Bummer

No, not President Joe. Senator Joe Manchin holds all the climate cards in Congress. How did that happen?

When the Democrats gained their razor-thin control of the Senate, they made Senior Senator Joe Manchin Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


Yes, the party that would fix the climate handed the keys over to Captain Coal.

Which is why it should not be a surprise to any sentient being that Manchin, not the Republicans, is President Biden's biggest obstacle to an infrastructure plan that aggressively pursues clean energy.

Climate change negotiating points 

When Manchin, then West Virginia Governor, ran to fill the unexpired term of the expired Robert Senator Robert Byrd in 2010, he famously aired an ad in which he literally shot a hole in a copy of a cap-and-trade emissions bill then under consideration.

Not quite a full-fledged climate denier, Manchin chose an interesting tack this year, joining with coal state Republican John Barrasso in urging President Biden to tackle the real climate killer: trees. Better forest management, they said in a June letter to the White House, could go a long way to curing our climate.

It's more bothersome that the climate and clean energy funds in the massive $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill may be there only as expendable negotiating points. So too, some say, are funds to correct the disgraceful state of lead in drinking water pipes.

West Virginia's Big Coal politics 

To understand Joe Manchin's role in all this requires a deeper dive into West Virginia politics. When Republican Shelley Moore Capito won her House seat in 2011, she broke a Democratic monopoly on West Virginia House seats. Now, all of the state's congresspeople are Republican.

With a lifetime 17% score on the League of Conservation Voters' National Environmental scorecard, Capito is middle-of-the-pack for Republicans. Manchin's 54% score puts him at the bottom of the Dems' pond. Both have been outspoken on PFAS contamination, since Parkersburg, West Virginia, is one of the nation's PFAS hotspots.

The state's current governor is quite literally larger than life. At six-feet seven and a lot of weight, Jim Justice is the state's only billionaire. You'll never guess how he made his money (coal!). Like Manchin and others, he's not convinced on all that climate science stuff.

In 2016, Justice switched parties, from Republican to Democrat, and won the governor's seat handily. He promptly switched back to the GOP. And in 2020, won reelection by a nearly two-to-one margin.

Have you figured out West Virginia politics yet?

Neither have I. Other than the permanent servility to Big Coal, there doesn't seem to be any.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: Sen. Joe Manchin (left) speaks to Navy Vice Adm. Michael M. Gilday, director of the Joint Staff. (Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

Fire, other ravages jeopardize California’s prized forests

Forest in California may be disappearing. Scientists say repeated fires, drought and beetle infestations are altering the Sierra Nevada.
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.

Federal officials say plan for water cuts from 3 Western states is enough to protect Colorado River

Federal officials say that conditions have improved on the Colorado River to the point that a three-state plan to reduce water use should keep the river basin on stable footing for several years.
New House speaker Mike Johnson doubts climate science
Photo by chris robert on Unsplash

New House speaker Mike Johnson doubts climate science

Representative Mike Johnson comes from Louisiana oil country and has said he does not believe burning fossil fuels is changing the climate.
war tank soldier
Photo by Kevin Schmid on Unsplash

How climate change drives conflict and war crimes around the globe

Human rights advocates want the International Criminal Court to begin gathering evidence on the way climate-amplified extreme weather, heat, drought and flooding are driving armed conflict, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The scientists watching their life's work disappear

Some are stubborn optimists. Others struggle with despair. Their faces show the weight they carry as they witness the impact of climate change.

Communities concerned about MVP pipeline water pollution explosion risk

After a federal appeals court this week denied a request from a group of Virginia landowners to stop construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on their land under eminent domain, communities near the pipeline say the project's scale raises serious concerns about safety and landslide risk.

From our Newsroom
environmental justice

LISTEN: Carlos Gould on wildfire smoke and our health

“Information matters a lot — trying to explain not just that there’s a problem, but how to do something about it.”

fracking PFAS

“Forever chemicals” in Pennsylvania fracking wells could impact health of surrounding communities: Report

More than 5,000 wells in the state were injected with 160 million pounds of undisclosed, “trade-secret” chemicals, which potentially include PFAS.

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

Poor recordkeeping on hazardous waste disposal points to potential for bigger problems, according to a new study.

drought climate farming

Opinion: Climate change and soil loss — the new Dust Bowl?

How we can save our soil, stabilize the climate, and prevent a new Dust Bowl.

climate change health care

Severe flooding increasingly cutting people off from health care

Many more Americans will find themselves regularly cut off from essential services, rescue workers and health care long before water actually reaches their homes, a recent study predicts.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.