West Virginia proponents of a federal infrastructure package that will address the climate crisis are urging passage as negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans near what could be a make-or-break moment.
The West Virginia Climate Alliance, a coalition of 18 environmental, faith-based, civil rights and civic organizations, called on U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Tuesday evening to support President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan that the group said takes essential steps to address global warming.
The coalition wrote letters to Capito, lead negotiator for Senate Republicans in infrastructure talks, and Manchin, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman, calling for billions of federal dollars in investment in West Virginia to aid the state in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
“This is West Virginia’s chance to create thousands of jobs and get a hand up in developing new energy jobs,” West Virginia Rivers Coalition Executive Director Angie Rosser said in a Tuesday evening press release.
The group’s letters followed the head of West Virginia’s AFL-CIO joining his counterparts from Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania plus the ReImagine Appalachia coalition of sustainable development advocates to unveil a new report urging a federal Appalachian climate infrastructure plan.
West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword was among those who gathered virtually Friday to endorse the plan calling for an estimated $23.6 billion federal investment annually over 10 years that backers said would create more than 500,000 jobs in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to match skilled union labor with our region’s need to adapt, build out broadband, modernize the grid and grow U.S.-based manufacturing,” Sword said.
But Capito’s office noted “vast differences” on the definition of infrastructure between Senate Republicans and the White House in a statement Friday, saying that the two sides seemed further apart after two meetings with White House staff than they were after one meeting with Biden.
The White House originally rolled out a $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal but slashed the price tag to $1.7 trillion. Senate GOP members, though, had initially laid out a $568 billion offer last month, and Capito’s office said that the White House counteroffer was “well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support.”
Manchin told reporters Tuesday that a small bipartisan group of senators were working on a new infrastructure package as Congress neared an unofficial Memorial Day deadline for an infrastructure deal.
Manchin downplayed that cutoff date Tuesday. But supporters of the White House’s goal to transform America’s energy framework to create millions of jobs, improve housing and transportation infrastructure and embrace energy efficiency measures want new action, not extended negotiation.
“It is essential that we begin the transition to clean energy,” West Virginia Climate Alliance cofounder Perry Bryant said in a press release. “Delay makes the transition more difficult and the impacts of climate change more severe.”