After helping to win the permit for the plant, Mr. Manchin began to profit from it.
On Oct. 5, 1989, one of Mr. Manchin’s companies, Transcon Inc., bought an old coal mine in Barrackville, five miles south of Grant Town, for $380,000, according to records in the Marion County Courthouse. That same day, he sold the property and its gob piles to AmBit for $500,000 — a profit of $120,000.
But Mr. Manchin was not only a supplier of fuel to the Grant Town plant. He also got a share of its revenue.
Shortly before the plant opened, he signed another deal with AmBit, involving yet another old coal mine that Mr. Manchin owned, this one south of Farmington, Mr. Manchin’s hometown. He leased that mine, along with the gob on that property, to AmBit. In return, AmBit agreed to pay not just rent to Mr. Manchin, but also one percent of the gross revenue from electricity generated by burning gob from Mr. Manchin’s old coal mine, according to a copy of the lease at the courthouse.
Those terms, while not unheard-of, were generous to Mr. Manchin, said Stefanie Hines, a lawyer who teaches at West Virginia University and specializes in mineral rights. “These aren’t deals you give to everybody,” Ms. Hines said.
Once the Grant Town plant opened, Mr. Manchin urged his fellow state lawmakers to back a tax credit for power plants that burn gob, according to an account at the time in the Charleston Gazette. It passed the following year.
Just three plants in the entire state burned gob; Grant Town was one of them. At the time, Mr. Manchin dismissed suggestions of self-dealing, noting that he had broken no rules.
As the Grant Town plant continued to buy Mr. Manchin’s gob, his political ambitions grew. He was elected secretary of state, in 2000. Four years later Mr. Manchin rode a landslide into the governor’s mansion in Charleston. From that position, he helped the power plant win an even more coveted prize.