Perhaps you didn’t catch one of the latest press released from the office of Sen. Joe Manchin. I thought it was pretty interesting. The headline said, “Manchin hosts energy roundtable with WV stakeholders in Charleston.” The release explained:
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today hosted an energy roundtable with West Virginia state leaders in the coal, gas and utility sectors, as well as state government officials and education representatives. Senator Manchin met with representatives from nearly twenty industry officials and organizations to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposed greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants, update participants on his ongoing efforts to find a balance between economic and environmental concerns, and hear from energy leaders across West Virginia.
That’s right … “find a balance between economic and environmental concerns.” We all know that Sen. Manchin is never, ever happier than when he’s finding a balance of some sort — bringing together people of different views and, through his own power of personality, getting them to work together. Right? Sure … just look at what he says in that press release:
We need the EPA to develop commonsense solutions that strike a balance between a prosperous economy and a cleaner environment.
Well, if that’s the case, then surely Sen. Manchin’s “stakeholders” meeting included representatives of a wide variety of groups, right? There must have been some environmental groups there, or folks from citizen organizations who are concerned about coal’s impacts on our global climate and our local environment and public health …
If you thought that, you’d be wrong.
I asked Manchin’s office about this, and spokesman Jonathan Kott told he would check into the attendance list, but added:
… This was an energy discussion and only energy groups were in attendance.
After he checked into it, Jonathan told me:
There were no environmental groups invited to the meeting. Senator Manchin wanted to speak directly with coal, gas and utility leaders to hear their views and concerns about the proposed greenhouse gas rule.
Jonathan noted that Sen. Manchin has encouraged West Virginians to submit public comments to EPA about the federal agency’s rule to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. He said the senator “has also recently met with environmental leaders on a variety of topics including the water situation and he will continue to have meetings will all groups.” I asked for some examples of those recent meetings, but I never heard back from Manchin’s office.
So it turns out that Sen. Manchin’s idea of a “stakeholder” meeting is really little different from the sort of meeting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and his staff had in mind when they were crafting their version of a chemical storage tank bill following the Freedom Industries spill: Get together the usual suspects from your industry lobbyist friends. No need to listen to a broad range of views or try to hear from those you might disagree with, or who might challenge your own thinking.
In some ways, Sen. Manchin’s move here is kind of surprising. As noted in the comments section of this Coal Tattoo post (about Gov. Tomblin avoiding meetings with citizen groups), Sen. Manchin would often meet with environmental groups when he was governor, even coming out to talk to protesters who turned up in his office at the Capitol. In the end, though, it’s hard to imagine how Sen. Manchin can ever find the “balance” he claims to seek if he only hears from one side of the argument.