UMWA president says he’s all in on Manchin-Schumer agreement; coal groups issue stinging letter criticizing Manchin

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The United Mine Workers Union is firmly behind the deal, the Inflation Reduction Bill, struck by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer but those who run state coal associations are not.

Cecil Roberts

“I think anyone who reads this bill would have a hard time coming up with an argument that it shouldn’t pass,” UMWA President Cecil Roberts said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Those who have read the bill have a wide range of takes on whether it should pass. However, in Roberts’ assessment it is a bill which is good for West Virginia and especially good for his members in creating future employment.

Roberts said the goal of the UMWA is to keep coal miners working in the coal industry and keeping the industry viable for as long as possible. The bill includes money for one of Manchin’s long-touted ideas of carbon capture and sequestration.

“We’re fighting hard as we can every day and in our proposal we suggest heavy , heavy investment in carbon capture and sequestration. This bill does exactly that,” Roberts said.

But there’s plenty of opposition. A letter released Wednesday from America’s State Coal Associations, which includes the West Virginia Coal Association, criticizes the legislation.

“The more you read and digest the provisions found in over 700+ pages of legislative digest, the more it becomes abundantly clear this legislation will serve to severely threaten American coal and the $261 Billion of annual revenues that it produces for the nation’s overall economy and attendant 381,000 American jobs,” letter said.

MORE Read letter from coal associations here

Chris Hamilton

The letter, which was signed by West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton, calls the bill “egregious.”

“It leaves those of us that call Senator Manchin a friend, shocked and disheartened. Senator Manchin has seemingly fought against numerous climate measures advanced over the past year by the national democratic establishment insisting that America’s Coal assets be protected and allowed to continue to operate as carbon reduction strategies are developed and proven to be effective within reasonable cost and performance parameters,” the statement said.

Other critics of the bill say the corporate tax increases included in the measure could deal a severe blow to a lot of job creating corporation, including coal companies which employ miners. Roberts in his appearance on Talkline, admitted there was some consternation over how the taxes are applied and the whole matter might be a political debate, which he said he would rather stay out of. However, he said crafters of the bill had the right idea.

“Those who have written this legislation say this only applies to corporations who currently pay nothing, and I think you and I would agree that everybody should pay something,” said Roberts.

Of greatest importance to Roberts in the Inflation Reduction Act was funding for Black Lung benefits. Roberts reminded critics the tax to fund the benefits wasn’t new and was actually put into place in 1986. The tax is $1.10 per ton for coal mined underground and .55 a ton on surface mined coal which is sold in the United States. The tax doesn’t apply to coal sold overseas, which currently is a large part of the metallurgical coal mined in the United Stats. Roberts said because Congress has failed to act through the years, mining companies have only paid half of those taxes which he contended are already too low.

“Quite frankly, the dollar-ten and 55 cents is not enough,” he said.

But the coal group said it’s now doubting what Manchin has told them in the past.

“The current Schumer-Manchin draft agreement on climate and energy frankly leaves us questioning the motivation and sincerity of Manchin’s previous stance and his repeated chant: we must “Innovate not eliminate”. The current Schumer-Manchin draft agreement will quickly diminish our coal producing operations and all but obviate any need to innovate coal assets,” the statement said.

The bill could come up for vote at the end of the week.

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