Manchin Delivered 'Game Changer' to His Top Donor

A tax credit that Sen. Manchin secured in the Inflation Reduction Act was celebrated by pipeline company Enterprise Products, the senator's top donor.

Manchin Delivered 'Game Changer' to His Top Donor
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)

While forcing his fellow Democrats to scale back their climate and health care legislation, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) made sure the bill included a lucrative gift for his biggest donor: a fossil fuel company whose CEO recently called the legislative gift a potential “game changer” for its business.

Critics say the provision — tax credits for unproven carbon capture technologies — is a handout to the oil and gas industry that could end up prolonging fossil fuel use instead of accelerating a transition to renewable energy. In addition, Manchin has reportedly negotiated a side deal for separate legislation that could also enrich that same fossil fuel industry donor.

The situation illustrates the continued power of fossil fuel industry lobbyists to shape legislation, even in an era when scientists say that industry’s products are destroying the livable ecosystem.

It also sheds light on a contradiction at the heart of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): A bill sold to the public as a climate solution includes significant resources for the oil and gas industry fueling the climate crisis.

“A Game Changer”

Many business interests have worked to build relationships with Manchin in recent years as he has become a key figure in deciding what Congress can and cannot pass. But none have done so more than the Houston-based oil and gas pipeline company Enterprise Products Partners.

Since the beginning of this Congress, Enterprise Products’ executives, employees, and political action committee (PAC) have donated at least $159,000 to Manchin’s campaign and leadership PAC, making the company the senator’s top donor entity this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.

The company also now employs Manchin’s son-in-law. Marshall Roberts, who is married to Manchin’s daughter Brooke, has worked for Enterprise Products since June 2020, most recently as a senior manager for commercial refined products, according to his LinkedIn page.

Now, thanks to language in the reconciliation bill that Manchin negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Enterprise Products’ investment in the senator might soon pay off.

The IRA, signed last week, expands and extends a tax credit known as 45Q for companies that use technologies to capture carbon oxide that they would normally release into the atmosphere. More than 500 environmental organizations signed a letter warning that the unproven technology “delays the needed transition away from fossil fuels and other combustible energy sources, and poses significant new environmental, health, and safety risks.”

But Manchin claimed credit for the subsidies in a letter to the West Virginia Coal Association, and they were included in the bill – just as his donor, Enterprise Products, is positioned to profit off them.

In April, Enterprise Products signed a letter of intent with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a subsidiary of oil giant Occidental Petroleum, to develop and commercialize a joint carbon capture and storage (CCS) service that they plan to sell to power plants and refineries, initially focusing on those in the industrial corridor spanning from Houston to Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas.