The West Virginia Senator Reaps Big Financial Rewards From a Network of Coal Companies With Grim Records of Pollution, Safety Violations, and Death
In the early hours of August 11, the Senate voted to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that would mark the nationís most significant investment in the fight against climate change ever undertaken in the United States. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., cast the tie-breaking vote.
The resolutionís approval kicked off a legislative process likely to last months, all of it hinging on Manchinís continued support. Not long after casting his vote, he issued a public statement warning the billís backers not to take him for granted.
ďAdding trillions of dollars more to nearly $29 trillion of national debt, without any consideration of the negative effects on our children and grandchildren, is one of those decisions that has become far too easy in Washington,Ē Manchin said. The month prior, he had specified that some of the climate-related provisions were ďvery, very disturbing.Ē
If youíre sticking your head in the sand, and saying that fossil [fuel] has to be eliminated in America, and they want to get rid of it, and thinking thatís going to clean up the global climate, it wonít clean it up all,Ē Manchin told CNN after a private meeting with President Joe Biden and his fellow Senate Democrats. ďIf anything, it would be worse.Ē
Manchinís claim that climate pollution would be worsened by the elimination of fossil fuels ó or by the resolutionís actual, more incremental climate provisions ó is highly dubious, if not outright false. What would unquestionably be impacted, however, is Manchinís own personal wealth.
Though Manchinís motivations are often ascribed to the conservative, coal-friendly politics of West Virginia, it is also the case that the stateís senior senator is heavily invested in the industry ó and owes much of his considerable fortune to it.
For decades, Manchin has profited from a series of coal companies that he founded during the 1980s. His son, Joe Manchin IV, has since assumed leadership roles in the firms, and the senator says his ownership is held in a blind trust. Yet between the time he joined the Senate and today, Manchin has personally grossed more than $4.5 million from those firms, according to financial disclosures. He also holds stock options in Enersystems Inc., the larger of the two firms, valued between $1 and $5 million.
Those two companies are Enersystems Inc. and Farmington Resources Inc., the latter of which was created by the rapid merging of two other firms, Manchinís Transcon and Farmington Energy in 2005. Enersystems purchases low-quality waste coal from mines and resells it to power plants as fuel, while Farmington Resources provides ďsupport activities for miningĒ and holds coal reserves in the Fairmont area. Over the decades, whether feeding tens of thousands of tons of dirty waste coal into the power plants in northern West Virginia or subjecting workers to unsafe conditions, Manchinís family coal business has almost entirely avoided public scrutiny.
Manchin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.