Joe Manchin Wants to Let Companies Keep Polluting in Private, Thanks

Manchin came out swinging against a plan to make companies disclose their role in causing climate change.
Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, has been a key holdout vote on President Joe Biden's domestic and climate agenda.
Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, has been a key holdout vote on President Joe Biden's domestic and climate agenda. Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Should companies have to explain their role in causing climate change? There’s a simple answer, according to Sen. Joe Manchin: Hell no. 

Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia who’s earned millions from fossil fuels, came out swinging against yet another anti-climate change proposal on Monday. In an attempt to create transparency, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proposed making companies report their greenhouse gas emissions every year. 


Manchin, who represents a coal state, wrote a letter trashing the proposal to SEC chair Gary Gensler and urging him to reassess.  

“The most concerning piece of the proposed rule is what appears to be the targeting of our nation's fossil fuel companies,” Manchin wrote. “Not only will these companies face heightened reporting requirements on account of their operations, but they will also be subjected to additional scrutiny.”

The rule would add “undue burdens on companies, while simultaneously sending a signal of opposition to the all-of-the-above energy policy that is critical to our country right now,” Manchin wrote.  

The letter marks Manchin’s latest attempt to derail President Joe Biden’s climate change agenda, at a moment when international experts are warning that we need to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis. 

Manchin, who has assumed mind-boggling power as the key swing vote in an evenly divided 50-50 Senate, famously torpedoed Biden’s enormous climate spending plan, which was included in the Build Back Better proposal. Manchin also blocked a high-profile climate hawk named Sarah Bloom Raskin from being appointed to the Federal Reserve over concerns that she might try to use her powers to press companies into greener policies. 


The proposed climate disclosure rule for companies matters because it’s one of the relatively few ways Biden can make progress on climate policy now that Manchin has joined with Republicans—for the moment—to block Congressional action on the climate crisis. 

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund have hailed the SEC plan as a way for the public to hold companies accountable for climate change, especially in an era when both governments and businesses are making big promises that fail to pan out. As UN Secretary-General António Gutteres said on Monday: “Simply put, they are lying.” 

The SEC’s proposed rule, which currently runs over 500 pages, aims to cut through those lies by bringing order to the way in which companies disclose their climate impact. While many companies have started issuing their own reports, setting down clear rules and forcing everyone to follow them would make it harder to fudge the truth. 

Companies would also have to disclose the risks their businesses face from a warming planet. That would give investors deeper insight into how a company’s business model might be affected by climate-linked catastrophes or new environmental regulations—or, say, a decision by consumers to stop driving gasoline-powered cars or using plastic products derived from fossil fuels. 

When investors have that insight, they might pressure companies to make more responsible decisions to avoid those risks.