Green groups call on Senate to reject Manchin Ex-Im bill

Greg Nash

A coalition of green groups plan to urge President Obama and senators to oppose a bill reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank over its roll-back of restrictions for financing overseas coal plants.

Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club and Greenpeace said Thursday they are working on letters to Obama and the Senate asking that they oppose the bill.

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They oppose Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) proposal because it would block standards adopted by the bank last year preventing it from providing financing for power plants unless they adopt carbon capture technology.

"Ex-Im bank has financed a number of really harmful coal plants in recent years but the policy put in place was a turn for the better and Manchin's proposal is a u-turn to the past," said Doug Norlen, manager of economic policy for Friends of the Earth.

Norlen noted that "enormous" power plants in India and South Africa received Ex-Im funding over the last few years.

The green groups argue Manchin's bill would unravel a key policy for the Ex-Im Bank just as the administration starts to show international leadership on climate change.

It's unclear if lawmakers generally allied with the environmental groups will back them.

Democrats are hoping to rally around the Ex-Im reauthorization bill given a divide in the GOP over the bank, which is supported by the Obama administration. 

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who typically attacks pro-coal policies, said earlier this week she wasn't sure if Manchin's proposal to roll back the coal financing restrictions would be "relevant" or "matters."

Her comments signal Democrats may bite the bullet on Manchin's bill, which would be a major victory for the coal industry, to ensure reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank's charter.

Manchin argues that the bill would allow the U.S. to export technologies to coal plants that would help clean up the climate.

Senate Democrats expect to bring the bill to the floor this month.