Joe Manchin Is Doing Utilities’ Reconciliation Bill Dirty Work

Home Technology Joe Manchin Is Doing Utilities’ Reconciliation Bill Dirty Work
Joe Manchin Is Doing Utilities’ Reconciliation Bill Dirty Work
mfw I get paid to do dirty work
mfw I get paid to do dirty work
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite (AP)

Over the course of his decade in the Senate, it’s no secret that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has been an ardent supporter of fossil fuels. The barely-blue-dog-Democrat is now almost singlehandedly responsible for holding up progress on the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill, as he pushes for major changes to the way the bill would put the country on a path to cleaner energy by 2030.

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But while the West Virginia senator’s ties to coal and oil are open and obvious, they’re not the only polluters who have helped keep Manchin in power. The utility industry—specifically utilities that rely on fossil fuels—has been a little-examined major funder behind Manchin’s career, and he’s executing some of their big wish list items when it comes to this bill.

Per OpenSecrets, over Joe Manchin’s entire career, utilities have been his seventh-largest overall donor by industry, trailing just behind the oil and gas industry (oil interests have given Manchin $670,945, while utilities have given $647,452). Manchin is, in fact, the second-largest recipient of utility money in the Senate thus far for the 2022 election cycle (Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has the top slot).

The reconciliation bill has a powerful tool to decarbonize utilities known as the Clean Electricity Performance Program, or CEPP. That section of the package defines what counts as clean energy and sets up a system to get utilities to decarbonize at a pace that would help the country meet President Joe Biden’s stated goals to get to 80% carbon-free energy by 2030. Some utilities, like PSEG, have publicly supported the proposal, which would reward utilities financially for cleaning up their power mix. But some of Manchin’s biggest donors are fighting the proposal.