Coal Tattoo

Sen. Joe Manchin likes to issue press releases. He especially likes it if those releases can tout new jobs or investment in West Virginia — or maybe work in the words “common sense.”

But the one his press office issued in Friday was especially puzzling. Headlined, Manchin Statement Regarding Consol’s Investment In WV’s Marcellus Shale, the release said:

Investing in our state is the key to economic growth and creating good jobs, and so I applaud the news of Consol’s investment in developing West Virginia’s Marcellus shale resources. Consol’s decision speaks volumes about the business and economic climate in our state.  I strongly believe Marcellus shale could be a game-changer for West Virginia, and that is why it is so important to have smart investments that will utilize our state’s great labor force, and achieve the right balance between our environment and our economy.

This announcement from Consol, coupled with the growing demand for our state’s coal, also proves why I so passionately believe that working with industry and responsible energy development is critical to our state’s and nation’s future. In light of the serious economic challenges our nation faces, I would hope that the federal government finally takes note of investments like these and realizes that – if we want our economy to grow and new jobs to be created – now is the time to be a partner, not a regulatory obstacle. In fact, if we are going to rebuild America, the best thing the federal government and regulatory agencies can do is to work with states like ours so we can expand the economic growth we’re seeing in West Virginia all across this great nation.

What’s so puzzling about that?

Well, read what the CONSOL Energy announcement actually said:

CONSOL Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNX) announced today that it has entered into an agreement with Noble Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NBL) for the joint development of CONSOL’s 663,350 Marcellus Shale acres in Pennsylvania and West Virginia for aggregate payments to CONSOL of approximately $3.4 billion. Under the agreement, Noble Energy will acquire 50% of CONSOL’s Marcellus Shale interest including a 50% interest in CONSOL’s existing Marcellus Shale wells.

CONSOL is selling half of its existing Marcellus Shale investment. The company isn’t investing — it’s divesting.

As governor and then as senator, Manchin has repeatedly said he doesn’t want a handout from the government — he just wants the Obama administration to issue more permits for our state’s mining operations.

But Sen. Manchin continues to try to tout a questionable project that is clearly also in financial trouble — the proposed coal-to-liquids plant in Mingo County. As documented last week by the Williamson Daily News:

“I met with TransGas owner, Adam Victor, again and I have it set up for him to go to Texas to meet with the head of Exxon Mobile. He’s trying. He’s put millions of his own money up. He’s trying to make this thing work. He’s doing everything humanly possible,” Manchin told a packed Mingo County Commission courtroom.

“We’ve got him talking to the right people and he’s trying to see if he can get Exxon Mobile to use some of their technology to liquefy this and he’s trying to get them as an equity partner,” Manchin said.

“I know it’s moving slow, but he’s the only game that we have in town that would come in without making you or the state take all the risk on the front end. He’s putting the money up and taking the risk. He’s done his due diligence. We’re doing everything we can to assist in getting him to the end,” Manchin said.

Remember, this project has no plans to capture and store its carbon dioxide emissions — making it very problematic if our nation’s energy future program is to do anything about global warming.  But Sen. Manchin doesn’t want to talk about that anymore than he wants to discuss the West Virginia University studies documenting major concerns about mountaintop removal’s impacts on public health in the coalfields.