Manchin Profits From Coal Sales to Utility Lobbying Group Members

Here's what we found about the Manchin family coal brokerage and its business with members of the powerful Edison Electric Institute.

Manchin Profits From Coal Sales to Utility Lobbying Group Members
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) speaks to reporters about infrastructure legislation on Capitol Hill, June 24, 2021.

Last month, Senate Energy Committee Chair Joe Manchin defended the continued burning of coal in remarks delivered to the annual conference of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a top trade association of electric utilities. 

Sen. Manchin expressed skepticism about the Biden administration’s goals to halve greenhouse gas emissions from their 2005 levels by 2030, a policy target for which there are still no binding laws. In the current Congress, Manchin’s vote would almost certainly be necessary for the Senate to approve plans to reduce polluting emissions, which would require a clean-energy transition for the coal industry of West Virginia. 

Manchin earns hundreds of thousands of dollars each year through coal sales to power plants that supply Edison Electric Institute member companies. His family company, Enersystems, is a contractor of American Bituminous Power Partners (AmBit), a coal power plant located near Grant Town, W.V. that provides energy to Monogahela Power Company, according to documents from the West Virginia Public Services Commission (PSC). Also known as Mon Power, the electric company is a subsidiary of energy giant FirstEnergy and an EEI member.

Manchin founded the coal brokerage Enersystems in 1988 and helped run the company, handing control to his son Joseph upon being elected West Virginia secretary of state in 2000 and reportedly moving his holdings into a blind trust between 2005 and 2010. In Manchin’s most recent financial disclosure, covering the fiscal year 2020, he reports that his non-public shares of Enersystems, a “contract services and material provider for utility plants,” are worth between $1 million and $5 million, and sent him an income of $492,000. His total income from the company since joining the Senate is more than $5.2 million. 

In his comments to EEI, Manchin argued that coal-fired plants are being unfairly targeted by environmentalists and claimed that the U.S. has relatively few coal plants, according to Utility Dive. A new report from the International Energy Agency found that coal and fossil gas power plants worldwide need to be retired as soon as 2035 if major emitters including the U.S. are to meet their targets for decarbonization.

Enersystems has no public website and little online presence, but information about its business operations can be found in records on the website of the PSC. Enersystems entered into a “Waste Fuel Services Agreement” with AmBit in April 2013, revised in Sept. 2015, with the term set to March 21, 2023. The agreement itself was not included in public docket filings; while AmBit provided copies to PSC staff as part of Aug. 2017 questioning, it was labeled “confidential.”

Waste Fuel Services Agreement referenced in W.V. Public Services Commission case, May 2017

Dave Anderson, policy and communications director for the watchdog organization Energy and Policy Institute, identified a 2017 case involving an electric energy purchase agreement where PSC staff cross-examined Mon Power executive John Mustonen about the costs of the power provided to the company by AmBit. According to the transcript, the witness described Enersystems as an AmBit contractor, specifically for “the services of handling and production” of fuel at the plant.