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Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) walks outside of the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill on December 9, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Mass Action Planned at Heart of Joe Manchin's Coal Empire

"Joe Manchin clearly has no plan other than more of the same for the future of West Virginia," said one organizer. "More of the same maltreatment and exploitation of the poorest people in this country."

Julia Conley

Hundreds of people in West Virginia on Saturday plan to blockade a coal waste power plant that directly benefits right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin while contributing to the planetary emergency, with dozens of activists planning to risk arrest.

"We chose this plant specifically because we need the world to know how corrupt Joe Manchin is."

The blockade will target Grant Town Power Plant, which receives coal waste from Enersystems, a company run by Manchin's son. The West Virginia Democrat earned $500,000 from Enersystems last year.

"Participants will put their bodies on the line to highlight the harm from the Manchin family business, protest against the burning of coal waste, and call for a different future for West Virginia," said West Virginia Rising, which is organizing the direct action.

The blockade follows the senator's decision in the last several months to reject numerous climate action provisions in the Build Back Better Act, President Joe Biden's signature domestic economic package, and comes days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on the planetary crisis.

The IPCC report reiterated that "immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors" are needed to limit global heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures and avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis, including rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather events.

"We chose this plant specifically because we need the world to know how corrupt Joe Manchin is," West Virginia Rising said. "He is not some thoughtful, grandfatherly moderate. He is raking in $500,000 per year from his coal company while single-handedly gutting climate legislation."

The group also asserted that when Manchin was governor of the state, he oversaw the raising of electricity rates for working West Virginians "in order to keep his coal business afloat."

West Virginia Rising will be joined by groups including CodePink and the Poor People's Campaign, which this week began a 23-mile march through the state to protest Manchin's refusal to back the extension of the enhanced Child Tax Credit (CTC), paid family leave, the Clean Electricity Performance Program, and other provisions in the original Build Back Better Act.

Research by the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis last year found that among West Virginians who benefited from the CTC in 2021—about 70% of Manchin's constituents—more than half used the credits to buy groceries and more than a quarter used the monthly payments to pay their rent or mortgage.

"Joe Manchin has spent his career making a very lucrative living off the backs of West Virginians while talking about how resilient we are," said Maria Gunnoe, director of Mother Jones Community Foundation and an organizer of the blockade. "West Virginians are tired of struggling only to see others prosper. We deserve opportunities to build a future that our kids can be proud of."

"Joe Manchin clearly has no plan other than more of the same for the future of West Virginia," Gunnoe added. "More of the same maltreatment and exploitation of the poorest people in this country."

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