Democratic Rep Says West Virginia’s Economy Is ‘Irrelevant’ Following Sen. Manchin’s Green Energy Criticisms

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Democratic Illinois Rep. Sean Casten blasted West Virginia’s economy as “irrelevant,” following criticisms from the state’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of the Build Back Better Act’s chief climate provision, the Clean Energy Performance Program (CEPP).

“If you came and said to me, ‘We will pass the CEPP as written but we will exempt West Virginia from it,’ I would take that deal. Do I think that’s possible? I mean, probably not, but that would be acceptable, right? Because West Virginia is an irrelevant part of our economy,” Casten told Politico on Monday.

West Virginia is the second-largest coal-producing state in the country, behind only Wyoming, according to the West Virginia Department of Energy. The coal industry directly employs more than 30,000 West Virginians, according to the state’s Office of Miner Health, Safety, and Training. Coal added $12.9 billion to the state’s economy in 2017, nearly 17% of West Virginia’s total output, a West Virginia University study found.

As a result, Manchin has expressed skepticism of the CEPP, which would provide grants to companies to experiment with greener energy. It would also fine companies for not ramping up green energy use, while preventing them from passing along increased costs to consumers. Manchin has argued that energy companies are already reducing emissions, and called for some carbon emissions to be allowed under the CEPP’s provisions.

Casten, a member of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, claimed in a Saturday tweet thread that Manchin’s opposition to CEPP is “the proximate issue” for him.

He followed up on Sunday by claiming that “Appalachian politicos never really cared about the miners.”

Left-wing pressure on Manchin has amped back up, following a brief respite during which Congress passed government funding and temporarily raised the debt ceiling. Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed in an Oct. 15 op-ed in Manchin’s hometown newspaper, the Charleston Gazette-Mail, that opponents of the Build Back Better Act “want to maintain the status quo in which the very rich get richer while ordinary Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet.” (RELATED: Bernie Sanders Accuses Democrats Manchin And Sinema Of ‘Sabotage’ In Tirade Against Fellow Senators)

“This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state,” Manchin responded.