Charleston, WV – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, reflected on the Committee’s historic work and accomplishments in 2021.
“I am incredibly proud of everything we accomplished during my first year as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I began my tenure as Chairman with the first climate hearing of the 117th Congress, underscoring the need to address global climate change. And we concluded this session with a hearing on outdoor recreation bills which will serve as a strong foundation for a first-ever bipartisan outdoor recreation package that we hope to finalize early next year. Altogether we held 40 hearings and reported 25 bills over the course of the year. We also advanced 19 of President Biden’s nominees to hold critical positions in the administration, helping the President assemble a Cabinet that reflects his priorities and the rich diversity of our great nation.
Through the bipartisan work this committee has come to be known for, we advanced the Energy Infrastructure Act, which later became Division D of the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and became law last month. This once-in-a-generation investment deploys innovative solutions critical to lowering our carbon footprint, tackling the climate crisis, and reinforcing the United States’ position as a global energy leader. It makes the single largest investment in American history to upgrade our power infrastructure and facilitate the expansion of clean energy, allowing our electric grid to remain a marvel of engineering and the envy of the world. It supports the ongoing work of West Virginia University in strengthening our domestic rare earth elements supply chain and will jumpstart the hydrogen economy with regional hubs across America, including one in Appalachia. It also reauthorizes the Abandoned Mine Lands reclamation fee for another 13 years and invests billions to reclaim these mine lands and plug orphan wells, ensuring communities across West Virginia are given new opportunities to rebuild and thrive once again. America hasn’t seen this type of infrastructure investment in decades, and the impacts of this bipartisan achievement will be felt by every household in West Virginia and across the nation for generations to come. This long-overdue investment will put us back on track to lead the world through the 21st Century and is a testament to what we can accomplish when we put politics aside to do what is best for our country.
Throughout the year, I worked tirelessly to advance a common sense, all-of-the-above energy policy that uses innovation, not elimination, to create a cleaner energy future, deploy critical climate solutions, and ensure our energy independence remains uncompromised while providing high quality jobs and ensuring we’re not leaving hard-working communities behind. I look forward to continuing to do so again next year, tackling the important issues that our country faces by working together for the greater good.”
West Virginia benefits from the Committee’s provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act can be found below. Estimates on West Virginia benefits from the overall bill can be found here.
- Funding for Energy Technologies and Demonstration Projects for Renewables, CCUS, Energy Storage and Efficiency, Industrial Emissions, Critical Minerals, Hydrogen, and Direct Air Capture. Of particular note for West Virginia are investments in:
- Carbon Capture – The bill authorizes more than $12 billion for carbon capture technologies, including direct air capture and demonstration projects on coal, natural gas, and industrial plants and supporting CO2 infrastructure. It also funds work to advance use of coal, carbon, and CO2 for valuable products, including a demonstration in Appalachia.
- Geothermal – The bill authorizes $84 million for enhanced geothermal demonstration, including in the eastern United States, like Appalachia.
- Critical minerals – The bill fully funds a program that West Virginia University has championed to extract rare earth elements from coal and authorizes $140 million for a new facility to demonstrate the commercial-scale feasibility of rare earth elements refining and processing from waste material, like acid mine drainage, that West Virginia University has been leading.
- Energy Efficiency and Weatherization – West Virginia would be eligible for approximately $16 million from a new revolving loan fund for states to encourage energy efficiency upgrades and approximately $47 million in funding for weatherization based on the current formula.
- Hydrogen – The bill authorizes $9.5 billion for hydrogen, including regional hydrogen hubs, of which two will be in the largest natural gas producing regions, including Appalachia. It makes NETL one of three lead laboratories for the new DOE hydrogen programs.
- Hyperloop Eligibility For DOE Loan Program – This bill would allow the hyperloop technologies to be eligible for DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program and receive loans through future appropriations.
- Clean Energy Demonstrations On Mine Lands – The bill authorizes $500 million to demonstrate the viability of clean energy projects on current and former mine land.
- Plugging Orphan Wells And Reclaiming Abandoned Mine Lands
- Orphan Wells –This bill authorizes $4.7 billion to plug, remediate, and reclaim orphaned wells via grants to the States and new federal programs. There are at least 4,646 documented orphan wells in West Virginia that will be able to be addressed under this program.
- Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation – The bill authorizes $11.3 billion for the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Fund. As of September 2020, there were at least 140,355 acres of unfunded AML problem areas in West Virginia, which would cost at least $1.78 billion. It also extends the collection of the AML Reclamation Fee for 13 years. This fee levied on coal provides funding for the AML program.
- Grid Resilience, Transmission, Cybersecurity
- Resilience Upgrades – West Virginia utilities would be eligible for the $5 billion authorized to install resilience upgrades on their systems.
- State Energy Programs – West Virginia will receive part of the $500 million authorized for State Energy Program activities, including transmission and distribution planning.
- Clean Energy Supply Chains
- Coal Country Energy Manufacturing – The bill authorizes $750 million in grants for small- and medium-sides manufacturers to build new or retrofit manufacturing and industrial facilities to produce or recycle energy products in communities where coal mines or coal plants have closed. This complements the 48C tax credit, which would provide a tax credit for similar activities in these areas.
- US Geological Survey Mapping – The bill establishes the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (EarthMRI) for the USGS, in partnership with the state geologic survey, to focus on mapping critical minerals, especially abandoned mines and mine waste that may contain these critical minerals. With the many mines sites in West Virginia, this will provide environmental and future economic benefits as efforts are accelerated to extract critical minerals from mine waste.
- Natural Resources
- In West Virginia, there are currently over 170,000 acres of un-reclaimed abandoned mine lands, and 1-in-3 West Virginians live within a 1-mile radius of an AML site. The bill authorizes $200 million in funding for planting trees and other vegetation on mined land (on Federal and, upon request, on non-Federal land) to bring economic activity and wildlife back to these areas.
- The bill also authorizes $8 million for efforts to supply firewood to people that heat their homes with wood in the winter if for some reason they cannot cut or afford to purchase the firewood they need to heat their home. This is comparable to the West Virginia food bank where people can go if they have fallen on hard times. Similarly, this will help people if for some reason they are not able to cut and split the firewood they need to heat their home.
- The West Virginia-Department of Natural Resources currently has three “good neighbor” projects ongoing on the Monongahela National Forest, where the State is overseeing timber harvesting work on the National Forest. This has been identified as a priority in the West Virginia 2020 State Forest Action Plan, prepared by the West Virginia Division of Forestry, and the bill specifically authorizes $200 million for these types of projects.
- The West Virginia forest products industry has facilities across the State, but not as many as there used to be. The bill authorizes $400 million to provide loans and loan guarantees to companies involved with the forest products industry (including to expand, re-open, or improve local sawmills).
- Last December, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve became America’s newest National Park, and in the months following visitation has increased. Moreover, visitation has increased across all of the Federal recreation sites in West Virginia during the pandemic as the public looked for things to do in the outdoors. This bill authorizes $80 million for Federal recreation sites (like the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve) that have been experiencing or are expecting to experience increases in visitation.
- Groups like Trout Unlimited have been working with the Forest Service to improve fish habitat, and ultimately make fishing better in streams in West Virginia. This bill authorizes $80 million for work like this in West Virginia and across the country.
- The bill authorizes $8.3 billion for western water infrastructure, including aging infrastructure, water recycling, desalination, storage, dam safety and river conservation and restoration projects.