GRANT TOWN, W. Va.
Grassroots groups blocking the entrance to a West Virginia power plant exposed Sen. Joe Manchin’s ties to the coal industry and several arrests were made.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the front gate of the Grant Town coal-fired power station on Saturday, media reported.
The protest called on Manchin to drop his support for fossil fuels and support green energy legislation. The West Virginia Democrat wields considerable influence over energy policy as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Protesters also urged Manchin to support legislation to help families living in poverty. The protest also focused on the Manchin family business, which sells waste coal to the power plant about 90 miles (about 145 kilometers) south of Pittsburgh.
Sam Runyon, Manchin’s spokesman, said in an email Sunday that the senator “has always supported the right of every West Virginian to peaceful protest, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
Among the speakers on Saturday were the Reverend William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, who has held several rallies over the past year in West Virginia to call on Manchin to support issues like higher wages, better protections vote and the expanded child tax credit now expired.
In February, Manchin said President Joe Biden’s roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better social and environmental bill was “dead.” While Manchin voiced his support for the original bill’s provisions bolstering renewables, he also said he wanted to “use all of the fossil fuel industry in the cleanest, most absolute versions possible.”
The measure had already been passed in the House. Democrats need Manchin’s vote to win the Senate 50-50, where every Republican opposes the legislation, but Vice President Kamala Harris can vote to sever ties.
Barber and others spoke in front of a sign affixed to the factory gate that read “Manchin: Stop Burning WV’s Future For Profit.”
“Instead of passing legislation and standing up for these things that would help the climate and protect our water, he blocked these things,” Barber said. “At every turn, he chose money and chose greed and chose some kind of political wickedness. When you block health care, people die. When you mess up the climate, people die.
West Virginia is the nation’s second-largest coal producer, behind Wyoming, and accounted for 5% of the nation’s total energy production in 2019, ranking fifth among states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But West Virginia has lost thousands of coal jobs over the past decade as businesses and utilities explore the use of alternative energy sources such as natural gas, solar and electricity. wind.
State police and sheriff’s deputies led away several protesters in handcuffs, but it was not immediately clear how many arrests had been made or what charges these activists faced.
WV Rising, a Morgantown-based group that organized the protest, said 16 people were arrested. Capt. RA Maddy, a state police spokesman, said Sunday he had no information about the arrests. A dispatcher from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office referred questions Sunday to the sheriff, who was unavailable.
Rylee Haught, a protester from Morgantown, said she came to the protest because “I know the effects of coal and it’s not positive anymore. It’s a dying industry. It hurts to West Virginia, the world at this point with rapidly increasing global warming.
Haught also said Manchin’s family business represents “a huge conflict of interest and it absolutely shouldn’t be happening.”