The round table also included advocacy groups FACES of Coal and the West Virginia Coal Association.
It met for a closed-door strategic session at Walter Machinery near the coal-rich state’s capitol city of Charleston, which Manchin said was a feat in itself and proved they were moving in a positive direction.
“Just bringing all of us together in one room proves one thing: in West Virginia, we can work together,” he said.
“That’s why I say that creating a true all-of-the-above energy plan is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem; it’s a problem for all of America to solve.
“Neither political party can do this on their own, so we need all of your help in telling our story.”
The West Virginia senator – Manchin stepped down as state governor in 2010 following the death of long-time senator and coal advocate Robert Byrd – went on to share with the group how he was working to “rein in” the EPA and to encourage clean coal technology investments.
The agency, headed by Lisa Jackson under the direction of US President Barack Obama, recently released a stifling new proposal for greenhouse gas emissions that could significantly restrict the construction of new coal-fired power generation facilities and likely turn the coal industry on its ear.
For now, Manchin said, the Obama administration and Jackson had the industry in a stranglehold.
“The EPA is putting out unreasonable guidelines,” he said.
“It's not that we're throwing caution to the wind we're not going to do it … but you can't do it within the guidelines.
“That means they're trying to pick winners and losers.”
He pointed to the government’s decision to back solar firm Solyndra – despite a $US500 million investment, the company declared bankruptcy.
If that earmark had been given to the cause of clean coal, he said, the nation would have “had something to show for it” now.
“If the EPA wants us to build cleaner coal-fired plants, then the government should help us develop that technology,” Manchin said, adding that the people of West Virginia, for one, wanted to invest in that progress because of the environmental, economic and job-strengthening benefits.
Manchin called for the positive promotion of coal across the state of West Virginia as well as to the nation’s senators, congressman, governors and the public.
“If you’re concerned about clean air and clean water, then you have to figure out how to use coal more efficiently and cleanly,” the former governor said.
“Here in West Virginia, history shows that we’ve done it and can do it.
“We just want the federal government to be our ally, not our adversary.
“You can be ‘all in’ with every source of energy you have, reduce your emissions and maintain coal production.
“You just have to live in the real world, deal with the fact that coal produces nearly half this country’s electricity, work with the market you have and clean up your environment.”
According to regional media given an advisory to a small portion of the meeting, WVCA president Bill Raney said the EPA’s regulations requiring carbon sequestration for every new coal-fired plant was unreasonable, as sequestration technology was still not perfected.
“If we had this same EPA back in the industrial revolution, we'd be a third-world country today,” he said.
Raney said if some collaborative effort between the coal industry and the EPA could not be found, the rest of the US would find out the hard way why coal was so important through higher electric rates if the EPA proposal came to fruition.
Manchin is about to set out on a two-week tour called “Fighting for Every Job”, and on Wednesday said “winning the war on coal” was a key element of his fight.
He said the tour, which began last week, would highlight the connection between jobs and energy independence.