Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has made headlines lately as he fights public health efforts that would raise costs for the coal industry, while financially he is making millions of dollars from a private coal company.
Manchin has defended his coal income, stating there’s no conflict of interest because he has made his fortune in a “blind trust,” meaning he was handed down the money from the coal company but has no knowledge of the holdings of the trust and cannot intervene in their handling.
While in Senate, Manchin has worked recklessly to boost coal production. His first speech in Congress attacked the Environmental Protection Agency for trying to end mountaintop removal mining. Mountaintop removal mining has been linked to birth defects and cancer in affected areas. Manchin also took issue with Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his contribution to a campaign that would help shut down power plants that use toxic coal.
Critics back in West Virginia have stated that Manchin’s efforts are entirely self-serving, even going so far as to call him the mouthpiece of the coal industry. In Manchin’s financial disclosures for 2009 and 2010, Manchin earned a significant amount of money from a coal brokerage that he helped run before he won his seat in Senate. Manchin reported operating income of $1,363,916 from Enersystems, the coal brokerage. His next disclosure showed $417,255 in Enersystems income.
West Virginia, Manchin’s critics are stating that they believe his financial investment and personal involvement in the coal industry are giving him the wrong idea of the effect the industry has had on the state.
In West Virginia, the large majority of the generated electricity comes from coal. From turning on your television set to opening your garage door, in West Virginia coal is part of your every day life. In 2009, at least three fatal accidents were due to the coal mining industry. “I certainly think that his perspective is very much skewed because of his connections to industry,” Cindy Rank, a long-time opponent of mountaintop removal in West Virginia, told Greenwire.
Photo Credit: Marc Wathieu