Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, issued the following statement regarding the inclusion of West Virginia priorities in his Energy Infrastructure Act – a robust energy and public lands infrastructure package that advanced out of Committee on a bipartisan basis earlier this week.
“This week’s successful vote to advance my bipartisan Energy Infrastructure Act is fantastic news for West Virginia. The power West Virginia provides has been the backbone of the American economy for decades, and this significant investment will create new jobs and demonstrate the energy technologies needed to reducing emissions while maintaining our nation’s position as a global energy leader. It also builds off the great work already being done in West Virginia to demonstrate advanced geothermal technologies and establish a reliable U.S. based rare earth elements supply chain. Importantly, this legislation also reauthorizes the abandoned mine land reclamation fee, set to expire in September, while investing $11.3 billion into reclaiming abandoned coal mine land. It also funds the demonstration of clean energy on abandoned mine lands and authorizes grants for manufacturers to locate in coal communities. These are all essential to creating safer coal communities and driving new economic opportunities to them. The bill also benefits West Virginia’s public lands and outdoor economy. This bill is another critical step towards finalizing our bipartisan infrastructure package, and an important reminder that we can find sensible solutions to difficult problems when we put partisanship aside and work together. I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues to get this bipartisan infrastructure proposal across the finish line and finally address West Virginia’s infrastructure needs.”
The bipartisan Energy Infrastructure Act will serve as the legislative text for key portions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, including power infrastructure, resilience, and abandoned mine lands and orphan wells. The Senate is expected to vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework soon.
Details on the Energy Infrastructure Act’s benefits for West Virginia below:
- 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.