Manchin pursuing additional funding for Coalfields Expressway, King Coal

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.(Rick Barbero/The Register-Herald)

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed numerous bills centered around Appalachian natural gas and coal.

Of note was the Appalachian Energy for National Security Act, which if passed by Congress and signed by the president, would require the U.S. Department of Energy to study national security and economic benefits to a proposed natural gas storage hub along the Ohio River Valley.

“An Appalachian Storage Hub would have immeasurable benefits for the Appalachian region and our country as a whole," said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in a news release.

"Not only would it be an economic driver for the region but it would also increase our national and economic energy security," Manchin said. "With countries like Russia and China continuing to leverage their energy resources for political influence, it is more important than ever for the United States to secure energy independence.

"In West Virginia we have been blessed with an abundance of natural resources and are well-suited to provide this energy security for the rest of the nation."

The act, introduced by Manchin who is the ranking Democrat on the committee, would also require the study to look at possible negative impacts of foreign ownership of domestic petrochemical resources and the needed infrastructure to locate such a hub in Appalachia.

Along with that bill, Manchin saw eight other bills he sponsored or co-sponsored make it out of committee.

Of particular note to southern West Virginia was the Rare Earth Element Advanced Coal Technologies, or REEACT, Act of 2019.

REEACT would continue funding to the U.S. Department of Energy in the form of $23 million a year through FY 2027 for the study of the extraction of rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts.

Currently, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Morgantown, in conjunction with researchers at West Virginia University, is actively developing prototypes to remove rare earth elements from coal waste with the belief that the supply of rare earths from those materials in Appalachia could supply the national defense need.

Currently, the national supply of rare earth elements is largely imported, with the most notable supplier being China.

In addition to the funding of rare earth research, the committee also passed Enhancing Fossil Fuel Energy Carbon Technology, or EFFECT, Act.

That bill would fund the DOE in the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars through the next decade for the research into carbon storage, carbon utilization and carbon removal centered around coal and natural gas technologies.

-- Email: mcombs@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH

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