A central component to the Biden administration’s climate agenda could be dropped from the massive budget bill that is pending in Congress due to opposition from Senator Joe Manchin, according to a report in the New York Times on Friday.
The White House will “likely” cut from its spending bill a program to replace coal- and gas-fired power plants in the US with wind, solar and nuclear energy, the Times reported, citing congressional staffers and lobbyists familiar with the matter.
The Biden administration has previously said that its clean energy plans would swiftly cut planet-heating emissions, and estimates have suggested that it could save hundreds of thousands of lives from deadly air pollution. In August, Biden also set a goal for half of all new vehicle sales in the US to be electric by 2030, and tightened pollution standards for trucks and cars.
The $150bn program that is in danger of being terminated would incentivize utilities to increase the amount of clean energy that they use and would issue penalties to those that do not switch to renewable energy.
The Times reported that Manchin, the centrist Democrat from West Virginia who has been aggressively resisting pieces of Biden’s agenda, has told the administration that he strongly opposes the clean electricity program. The White House is now rewriting a version of the legislation that excludes that climate provision, the paper said. The administration is reportedly trying to come up with other alternative policies that could further cut emissions.
Manchin, as the Times noted, has personal financial ties to the coal industry.
If Manchin’s opposition does ultimately kill Biden’s clean electricity program, it would be a huge setback for the administration’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis. “He plans to gut Biden’s climate plan, and with it the chances for swift global progress,” tweeted Bill McKibben, the prominent environmentalist.
The Times noted that Democrats could attempt to move forward with a clean electricity program as its own bill, but that the window of opportunity is closing.
A spokesman for the White House declined to comment to the Times.
Sam Runyon, a Manchin spokeswoman, did not directly comment on the report, but told the Guardian in an email, “Senator Manchin has clearly expressed his concerns about using tax payer dollars to pay private companies to do things they’re already doing. He continues to support efforts to combat climate change while protecting American energy independence and ensuring our energy reliability.”
In July, a consortium of researchers reported that, out of a range of the Biden administration’s policy proposals to tackle the climate crisis, a clean energy standard would offer the largest net benefits to the US.
Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema have repeatedly clashed with the Biden administration and progressive Democrats, threatening to derail the president’s ambitious economic package.