Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin III signaled Sunday that he opposes a key climate change provision in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill.
Mr. Manchin, a moderate Democrat from the coal state of West Virginia, argued during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” that his party would be foolish to spend billions on phasing out fossil fuels from electricity generation.
“Let’s look at what we’ve been done in the last 20 years … that transition is happening,” said Mr. Manchin. “Now they’re wanting to pay companies to do what they’re already doing. It makes no sense to me at all, for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market transition.”
Last week, House Democrats unveiled an ambitious program within Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion package to hasten the transition to “clean electricity. The program would pay utility companies to jettison natural gas and coal in favor of “green” alternatives like wind and solar.
“It’s critical that we make the necessary investments now to achieve President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat.
Democratic lawmakers have proposed spending $150 billion on the program through 2030.
As part of the proposal, electric suppliers would be eligible for federal grants if they increase the amount of “clean energy” supplied to customers by 4% annually. Companies that fail to reach the goal would be fined by the Department of Energy.
To hasten the transition away from fossil fuels and make the program successful, Democrats are eyeing a series of “taxes and fees” on natural gas and coal.
“It makes no sense at all,” Mr. Manchin said, pointing to data showing that the share of electricity produced by coal and natural gas is on the decline. “Makes no sense.”
Natural gas and coal, which produce nearly two-thirds of all electricity consumed across the U.S., are also two key resources to the economy of West Virginia.
Mr. Manchin’s opposition likely signals doom for the program. Democrats plan to force through the massive spending bill without support from a single Republican. They will use a special procedure known as budget reconciliation that allows some tax and spending measures to avert the 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass by a simple majority of 51 votes.