In Manchin’s home state, wind energy finds bipartisan support

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Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Congratulations to Vanessa Montalbano, the Climate 202 researcher, for graduating from American University’s School of Communication with a master’s degree in journalism and public affairs over the weekend. 🥳 Wp Get the full experience. Choose your plan ArrowRight While Vanessa was graduating, Climate 202 anchor Maxine Joselow was on a reporting trip in West Virginia. Here’s her dispatch from the trip:

In West Virginia, wind power finds support across the aisle, as Manchin holds bipartisan energy talks

Over the past several months, I’ve mentioned Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) — a crucial holdout vote on climate legislation in the evenly divided Senate — in nearly every single edition of The Climate 202. But I’ve never reported the newsletter from his home state.

That changed on Friday, when I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $200 million wind farm in West Virginia’s Grant and Mineral counties. Clearway Energy Group’s Black Rock project will generate carbon-free electricity for Toyota and American Electric Power, increasing the state’s wind energy generation by 15 percent.

I wanted to see the 23 towering turbines up close. And I wanted to ask West Virginians about their views on clean energy in a state where the once-powerful coal industry is on the decline.

As I drove through the northeastern part of the state, I passed barren landscapes that had been torn apart by mountaintop removal, a form of mining in which the tops of mountains are literally blasted off to expose layers of coal. Then, suddenly, massive wind turbines appeared on the horizon, sitting atop some of the same mountains that had been scarred by fossil fuel production.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which took place indoors because of heavy rain, I spotted Keith McIntosh, Manchin’s state projects coordinator, in the crowd of local politicians and clean energy advocates.

McIntosh declined to talk to me on the record. But he subsequently delivered a speech on behalf of Manchin that touted wind power’s role in West Virginia’s — and America’s — energy future.

“Today marks a major milestone for West Virginia,” McIntosh said. “Black Rock’s 23 state-of-the-art wind turbines are a significant addition to our state’s energy portfolio. Wind power is a clean, practical energy source that can be used to meet nationwide demand while achieving our collective climate goals.”

He added in an apparent reference to coal mining: “For generations, West Virginia has powered our nation to greatness. And investments like this will ensure our state will remain an energy superpower for generations to come.”

Several Republican state politicians also spoke at the event. Without mentioning climate change, they applauded the wind farm for bringing reliable energy and well-paying jobs to the region.

The Black Rock project “provides national security,” said West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair (R). “There’s no better time than now to recognize that with what’s going on in Eastern Europe.”

I was surprised to hear a GOP state lawmaker argue that clean energy would bolster national security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In D.C., that argument is more typically made by liberal Democrats.

Still, Blair added that the state should take an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy — a phrase often invoked by Manchin that refers to encouraging the growth of both fossil fuels and renewables.

In an interview before the event, Gary Howell, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, told me that he supports the Black Rock project because it created more than 200 jobs during construction and nearly a dozen permanent operations jobs, including through a partnership with Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College, which has a program to train students in turbine construction and maintenance.

“We’re training a whole new class of workers,” said Howell, who wore a turbine-shaped pin on his lapel.

Back on Capitol Hill, Manchin has been meeting with a small group of Republicans about the possibility of crafting a bipartisan climate and energy package. The bipartisan group recently discussed the tax credits for clean energy that were included in President Biden’s stalled social spending bill.

In an interview after the event, Clearway Energy CEO Craig Cornelius declined to comment on Manchin’s opposition to Biden’s spending bill. But he warned that if Congress fails to extend those tax credits, the clean energy developer’s plans for more projects in West Virginia could be significantly slowed.

“We definitely won’t be able to build everything that we’ve planned here in West Virginia as fast as we could if [the credits] are not coming,” Cornelius told me. “Those incentives are the difference between whether a project gets built in the next two years or the next eight.”

On the 3-hour drive back to D.C., I reflected on the fact that wind energy enjoys broad support in West Virginia, where Republicans have seen firsthand its benefits for job creation and energy security. Wind also has bipartisan backing on Capitol Hill, where it has been embraced by Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who has a General Electric wind turbine manufacturing facility in his home state.

That trend could bode well for the clean energy incentives, which would help wean the nation off the fossil fuels that are dangerously warming the planet. But advocates say Congress needs to act fast and secure a final deal before Memorial Day.

The fate of future projects like Black Rock — and the planet — depends on it.

Pressure points

White House alarmed that Commerce probe is ‘smothering’ solar industry

Top climate officials in the Biden administration are warning that an investigation launched by the Commerce Department into alleged circumventing of tariffs by Chinese suppliers has imperiled the domestic solar industry while the country tries to rapidly transition to clean energy, The Washington Post’s Evan Halper and Jeff Stein report.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm relayed her mounting concerns about the probe to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during an unrelated media event on March 31, according to a Commerce spokesperson. Raimondo told Granholm that she shared the concerns but that the investigation is a quasi-judicial process that the secretary cannot influence, the spokesperson said.

White House special presidential envoy for climate John F. Kerry also has relayed the solar industry’s concerns in internal administration conversations but has been clear that he defers to Commerce’s discretion over the investigation, a Kerry spokesperson said.

The probe — which examines allegations that solar panels assembled in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are dodging rules intended to block solar imports from China — carries the threat of retroactive tariffs. Already, hundreds of big solar projects in the United States have been frozen or delayed as investors become wary of potential retroactive penalties.

Solar industry leaders have warned that if the investigation drags on for months, businesses will be wiped out. According to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration thinking, the White House is urging Commerce to expedite its process in accordance with the law.

International climate

G-7 nations to ban or phase out Russian oil imports

The Group of Seven nations on Sunday committed to ban or phase out shipments of Russian oil in an attempt to increase pressure on Moscow’s economy as it continues its invasion of Ukraine, Emma Bubola and Eduardo Medina report for the New York Times.

During a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to commemorate the end of World War II, leaders of the G-7 said the plans would be enforced in a “timely and orderly fashion, and in ways that provide time for the world to secure alternative supplies,” but did not provide further details. The group includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The United States has already banned imports of Russian oil and gas. The European Union has announced plans to wean itself off Russian energy but has yet to finalize its strategy. The bloc receives about a quarter of its crude oil imports from Russia, making it economically vulnerable to an immediate ban.

Extreme events

Facing a new climate reality, Southern California lawns could wither

The relentless climate-change-fueled drought sweeping the American West is now coming for the lush lawns in Los Angeles, The Post’s Joshua Partlow reports.

Municipal water officials have asked millions of homes to cut back on their water usage by 35 percent by June 1. If the situation doesn’t improve by September, officials say outdoor water use could be banned entirely.

“We are in an emergency,” said Adel Hagekhalil, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, adding, “It’s ok to have your lawn yellow.”

On the Hill this week

On Tuesday: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development will hold a hearing on President Biden’s budget request for the Transportation Department for fiscal 2023. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will testify.

On Wednesday: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold an oversight hearing to examine the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s work under the Biden administration. Chair Brenda Mallory will testify.

On Thursday: The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing on the Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act, which would amend the 1872 mining law to establish a royalty on mining operations, among other changes. The measure, which was introduced by House Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), could see more momentum as some Democrats champion mining for critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries.

Also on Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on the role of hydropower in the clean energy transition. And the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development will discuss Biden’s budget request for the Energy Department’s science and energy programs, with testimony from:

Geraldine Richmond , Energy’s undersecretary for science and innovation

Kathleen Hogan, Energy’s principal deputy under secretary for infrastructure

In the atmosphere


A very happy #MothersDay to all the amazing moms out there! 💙 — Oceana (@oceana) May 8, 2022

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