WASHINGTON -- Amid a vigorous congressional fight over funding for the U.S. Export-Import Bank, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) plans to raise another heated issue: money for coal-fired power plants.
The current funding for the Export-Import Bank expires on Sept. 30. Ex-Im provides loans for projects in other countries that will purchase U.S.-manufactured goods or use U.S. services. Some House Republicans -- as well as a few Democrats -- have been resistant to reauthorizing the funding, arguing that it constitutes "corporate welfare" (see this HuffPost story by Zach Carter for more background on the fight).
Talks between the House and Senate on Ex-Im reauthorization are still in the early stages. But Manchin plans to introduce an amendment to the reauthorization bill to boost coal. The amendment would block Ex-Im from enforcing a policy announced in December that would stop the bank from funding most coal-fired power plants abroad.
The new policy bars money for "high carbon intensity plants," except in situations where there are no other financially feasible options or when a proposed plant will come with carbon capture technology. The change puts Ex-Im in line with the U.S. Treasury Department, which made a similar policy change last October.
Manchin's amendment, the text of which his office provided to The Huffington Post, would effectively block Ex-Im's new rule. It would bar enforcement of the rule if the rule "would prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting, any coal-fired or other power-generation project" where that project would "provide affordable electricity" in low-income countries or would "increase exports of goods and services from the United States or prevent the loss of jobs in the United States."
Environmental advocates, who had welcomed the policy change after years of complaining about major coal projects that the bank was funding, criticized Manchin's move. "Ex-Im Bank's past coal projects are environmental, health and human rights debacles," said Doug Norlen, senior manager of the economic policy program at Friends of the Earth. "With Ex-Im Bank's recent coal restrictions, we turned the corner towards a better future, but Sen. Manchin's bill would be a U-turn to the past."
Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott said the senator is looking to introduce the amendment "soon."