Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday that he will oppose all of President Biden’s nominees for the Environmental Protection Agency unless the administration rescinds a proposal to limit power plant emissions.
Manchin, who is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and who has long fought on behalf of the coal industry, accused the Biden administration in a statement of trying to advance a “radical climate agenda” and to “regulate coal and gas-fueled power plants out of existence.”
The EPA proposal in question would impose standards on fossil-fuel-burning power plants with the aim of drastically cutting power plant emissions by 2040. Though many aspects of the regulations were widely reported last month, a formal announcement is not expected until Thursday morning.
“If the reports are true, the pending EPA proposal would impact nearly all fossil-fueled power plants in the United States, which generate about 60 percent of our electricity, without an adequate plan to replace the lost baseload generation,” Manchin said. “This piles on top of a broader regulatory agenda being rolled out designed to kill the fossil industry by a thousand cuts.”
Manchin charged that neither the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law nor the Inflation Reduction Act — both of which he voted for and which Biden signed into law — granted the EPA new authority to regulate power plant emission standards.
“However, I fear that this Administration’s commitment to their extreme ideology overshadows their responsibility to ensure long-lasting energy and economic security and I will oppose all EPA nominees until they halt their government overreach,” Manchin said.
A representative for the EPA referred questions about nominees to the White House.
“EPA has been clear from the start that we will use all of our legally-upheld tools, grounded in decades-old bipartisan laws, to address dangerous air pollution and protect the air our children breathe today and for generations to come,” EPA spokesman Timothy Carroll said in an email, referring to the forthcoming proposals.
Asked about Manchin’s threat Wednesday, Biden told reporters that he stood by his “well-qualified nominees to do the important work of the EPA.”
It is not the first time Manchin, who represents a coal-producing state, has publicly clashed over energy policy with Biden, who has vowed since he took office that tackling the climate crisis would be a priority.
In March, Manchin threatened to sue the Biden administration over its handling of guidance on which electric vehicles qualify for tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act. He also joined Republicans in voting to overturn a Biden administration rule aimed at stronger protection of the nation’s waters.
Manchin, whose state strongly backed Donald Trump in 2020, repeatedly has distanced himself from Biden ahead of next year’s election. Manchin has not indicated whether he will seek another term; Gov. Jim Justice, a top GOP recruit, has announced that he will seek the seat along with Rep. Alex Mooney (R).
In November, Manchin and Biden were again engaged in a public spat after the president said in a speech that coal plants were becoming outmoded.
“We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar,” Biden said then.
In a statement, Manchin called Biden’s comments “outrageous and divorced from reality” and demanded an apology.
Some Republicans, however, noted that Manchin’s threat to oppose Biden’s nominees does not carry as much weight with the expected return of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who had been absent for more than two months for health-related reasons, restoring Democrats’ 51-49 Senate majority.
“Interesting that Manchin waited until Feinstein returned to get tough on EPA noms,” Doug Andres, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), wrote on Twitter. “Allows him to vote with Rs but the noms will likely still be confirmed.”
Timothy Puko and John Wagner contributed to this report.