Manchin Leads Robust Discussion On Infrastructure Proposal

Proposal would invest $95 billion to address energy, public lands, and western water infrastructure needs

June 24, 2021

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the infrastructure needs of the U.S. energy sector, western water, and public lands, and to consider a legislative proposal  to invest approximately $95 billion for infrastructure. During the hearing, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, questioned witnesses on the backlog of Abandoned Mine Land (AML) reclamation work. Eighty-four percent of unfunded reclamation needs are concentrated in seven Appalachian states like West Virginia. Chairman Manchin’s infrastructure proposal would provide significant funding for reclamation work, and the Chairman also stressed his commitment to complementing this funding with an extension of the AML Reclamation fee.

Mr. Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, praised Chairman Manchin’s efforts on leading legislation to reinvest in and restore coal communities.

“We can put tens of thousands of people to work in communities affected by the boom and bust cycles of these mines. We thank Chairman Manchin for his tireless leadership to secure this critical funding [for abandoned mine lands], as well as for his leadership of the RECLAIM Act, which would help revitalize distressed communities through reclamation and restoration of natural resources—all of which would go a long way toward addressing these pressing environmental, health and energy transition issues in coal country. Significant investment in the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program would also provide much needed support to coal workers suffering long-term health effects of underground mining,” said Mr. O’Mara.

Chairman Manchin also raised concerns about America’s reliance on overseas supply chains for critical minerals and the lack of domestic EV battery recycling capability, while noting that the infrastructure proposal contains key provisions that would help build out the supply chain and kick start American mineral processing, manufacturing, and recycling.

“It’s clear clean energy technologies will require more mineral resources but some projections falsely claim that we will run out of these critical minerals. So if a foreign supply chain is what we are depending on right now and we’re willing to change our whole transportation mode based on these supply chains, what’s your thoughts on that and how do you expect us to meet market demands?” Chairman Manchin asked.

“What we have heard is the expectation of enormous demand for electric vehicles, for solar panels, and for all sorts of things that require critical minerals. The only way to [meet that demand] and not rely on the Congo and China is to have domestic supply. And that means public policies that permit those to be safely mined in the US and processed in the US. And we are behind the curve on doing that,” said Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President American Action Forum.

“We recycle less than one percent of our rare earth minerals, and the numbers are equally bad for our critical mineral list put together by the last and this administration. We have talked a lot about lithium recycling, we need to talk about all of it, because if we do that together we can actually meet a lot of our domestic needs. We need to be much better as a country at this,” said Mr. O’Mara.

Finally, Chairman Manchin questioned Dr. Kathleen Hogan, Acting Undersecretary for Science and Energy for the Department of Energy, on the feasibility of achieving the administration’s emission reductions goals without preserving our current nuclear fleet. In April, Chairman Manchin urged President Biden to preserve the United States’ civil nuclear fleet and prevent further plant closures.

The hearing featured witnesses from the Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture Forest Service, National Wildlife Federation, American Action Forum, and Manhattan Institute. To read their testimony click here.

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.