Coal provision could divide Senate Dems on Export-Import Bank bill

Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) are promising to fight any efforts to roll back Export-Import Bank restrictions on financing overseas coal plants — even those from a fellow Democrat.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has pledged to include such language in the bill he is working on to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank's charter, which is set to expire at the end of September.

Last week, Boxer had expressed little concern over the pro-coal provision, but she changed her tune Tuesday after seeing Manchin's language.

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"It's problematic," Boxer said of the provision. "It really will set the world back … and will lead to much worse climate pollution."

The change would get rid of guidelines the bank implemented in December that prevent funding for power plants unless they adopt carbon capture technology, allowing exceptions for the world's poorest countries. The revision was in response to administration-wide efforts to combat climate change.

It's not yet clear whether Democratic leadership would be willing to consider Ex-Im reauthorization with the coal language on the floor, or whether Manchin will need to offer it as an amendment.

Boxer vowed to "organize against" the measure, and said she's "confident" it can be defeated, allowing a clean reauthorization of Ex-Im to go to the floor.

"It essentially says you can build any dirty, filthy coal power plant you wanted," Boxer added.

Whitehouse, a staunch advocate for climate change policies in Congress, also opposes the language.

"I'm not thrilled with it," Whitehouse said, adding that discussions are still ongoing about the provision.

Manchin told reporters he plans to meet with Democratic leadership Tuesday night to discuss the details of his Ex-Im reauthorization bill, which he has yet to introduce. He said he hopes to get a better idea of when he can push the bill after Tuesday's meeting.

Manchin argues that the coal additive would increase export of clean coal technologies overseas and help the climate.

He added that he will have no problem with getting Democratic cosponsors for the bill, despite the coal language. So far, the bill has four Republican cosponsors as well.

Green groups urged the Senate last week to reject Manchin's provision, claiming it would undermine the Obama administration's international leadership on climate change.

Democrats are hoping to rally around reauthorization of the bank's charter, given a divide in the GOP over the bank, but Manchin's attempt to roll back the coal restrictions could put a damper on the effort.