Green groups assail ‘dirty’ bank bill

A dozen green groups lined up Friday against Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinCongress nears deal on help for miners Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general Congress nears deal on help for miners MORE's (D-W.Va.) bill to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank, assailing a provision that would roll back restrictions for financing overseas coal plants.

Groups including Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council sent a letter to the Senate urging lawmakers to reject Manchin's bill, calling it a "dirty reauthorization" that would undermine President Obama's policies on climate change.

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"Our organizations vehemently oppose Senator Manchin’s proposal (and any similar proposal in the House) to weaken the existing climate policies and instead advocate for the elimination of fossil fuel and coal projects from the Export-Import Bank’s repertoire in the coming reauthorization process," the letter states.

In December, Ex-Im issued new guidelines that prohibit funding for coal-fired power plants overseas unless the plants adopt carbon capture technology.

Manchin's bill reverses that policy and pushes for the export of more carbon-capture technology to coal plants abroad, which the senator argues would help clean up the climate.

The green groups said continuing funding for overseas coal projects "undercuts" the administration's ability to "persuade other governments to end export credit agency and other public financing for coal projects."

"It erodes foreign confidence that the United States will act on climate or follow the administration’s stated G20 goal of ending fossil fuel subsidies," the letter adds.

If Manchin's bill passes Congress, it would reverse the Ex-Im policy at a time when Secretary of State John Kerry is making climate action a top priority in diplomatic talks.

Still, the argument against the bill might not gain traction among Democrats who otherwise would be responsive to its message.

Democrats are pushing Ex-Im reauthorization with the support of the Obama administration and have signaled they are willing to swallow the coal provisions.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) a vocal advocate for greener policies who is anti-coal, hinted earlier this week that she might support Manchin's bill.

Boxer said she didn't know if Manchin's coal provision would be "relevant" in the long term.

Other signatories of the letter include Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and Earthjustice.