Joe Manchin the senator is also a wealthy mining executive — and he sells all of his coal to this one power plant here, in Grant Town, West Virginia.
A new investigation reveals that for 30 years, Manchin has been using his public office to benefit that plant, all while getting a cut of the plant’s revenue. This arrangement has helped make him a millionaire, in part by forcing people in his own state to pay higher electricity rates.
It’s a classic story of conflict of interest and public corruption. This is how he did it:
In the 1980s, Joe Manchin owned several gob mines, the dirties type of coal.
As the New York Times uncovered, Manchin used his new position as State Senator to win an air pollution waiver so the Grant Town power plant near his district was allowed to burn gob, which produces high levels of the toxin sulfur dioxide.
In private, Manchin then made a deal to sell his gob to Grant Town in exchange for a cut of the plant’s revenue.
Despite the conflict of interest, Manchin then helped pass tax credits to subsidize power plants that burn gob in West Virginia.
“It’s poisoned our water, it’s poisoned our air, it’s poisoned our citizens, and Joe’s made money off of it,” one West Virginia resident told us.
As governor, Manchin worked behind the scenes to push for electricity rate increases on people who relied on power from Grant Town.
“He’s helped make sure that this plant gets rate increases to pay for electricity that actually isn’t made as cheaply as other forms of energy, including wind and solar, which are also able to be made right here in West Virginia,” Warren Hilsbos said.
Ratepayers were forced to spend millions of dollars in excess fees in one of the poorest states in the country, and Manchin personally benefited from all of it.
Since 2016 alone, Grant Town has cost West Virginia utility Mon Power $117 million more than it would have to buy power from other sources.
Later, when the EPA proposed the first ever national mercury and air toxic standards for power plants, Manchin, now a United States senator, sponsored legislation giving regulatory authority over coal ash to states to get around the laws.
Fast forward to today. For three decades, Manchin has made millions as the exclusive gob supplier to the plant while simultaneously getting a cut of the Grant Town plant’s revenue.
That plant is the last in West Virginia that still burns gob and would be put out of business by the new climate legislation proposed in President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
To squeeze out the last profits before a possible closure, the plant’s owners tried to force the utility company to buy out its contract, which lasts till 2036.
By November, it was clear that the state regulators who would have to approve that buyout were skeptical. And a month later, Manchin announced that he was opposed to the Build Back Better bill altogether, effectively killing it.