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The man who would drown his state

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“I own a mansion and a yacht”

West Virginia figures to be among the worst-hit states if Joe Manchin succeeds in eliminating virtually all climate measures from the reconciliation bill:

In Senator Joe Manchin’s hometown, a flood-prone hamlet of about 200 homes that hugs a curve on a shallow creek, the rain is getting worse.

Those storms swell the river, called Buffalo Creek, inundating homes along its banks. They burst the streams that spill down the hills on either side of this former coal-mining town, pushing water into basements. They saturate the ground, seeping into Farmington’s aging pipes and overwhelming its sewage treatment system.

Climate change is warming the air, allowing it to hold more moisture, which causes more frequent and intense rainfall. And no state in the contiguous United States is more exposed to flood damage than West Virginia, according to data released last week.

From the porch of his riverfront house, Jim Hall, who is married to Mr. Manchin’s cousin, recounted how rescue workers got him and his wife out of their house with a rope during a flood in 2017. He described helping his neighbors, Mr. Manchin’s sister and brother-in-law, clear out their basement when a storm would come. He calls local officials when he smells raw sewage in the river.

“These last few years here in West Virginia, we’ve had unbelievable amounts of rain,” Mr. Hall said. “We’ve seriously considered not staying.”

Mr. Manchin, a Democrat whose vote is crucial to passing his party’s climate legislation, is opposed to its most important provision that would compel utilities to stop burning oil, coal and gas and instead use solar, wind and nuclear energy, which do not emit the carbon dioxide that is heating the planet. Last week, the senator made his opposition clear to the Biden administration, which is now scrambling to come up with alternatives he would accept.

Mr. Manchin has rejected any plan to move the country away from fossil fuels because he said it would harm West Virginia, a top producer of coal and gas. Mr. Manchin’s own finances are tied to coal: he founded a family coal brokerage that paid him half a million dollars in dividends last year.

But when it comes to climate, there’s also an economic toll from inaction.

The problem is that while nobody is entirely immune from the effects of climate change extremely rich people will have it a lot easier. So you can convince yourself that preserving a handful of coal jobs is worth frying the planet more easily.

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