Sunday, September 20, 2015

West Virginia Should Support Power Plus

President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan has received a lot of attention recently, and in coal-dependent states like West Virginia, the attention has been mostly negative.
One example of this criticism is a rather poorly written opinion piece that recently ran in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. attacking the President's stance on fossil fuels and dismissing global warming as bogus because our area's summer has been a bit cooler than normal.

Low-quality newspaper editorials and criticism from politicians aside, the Clean Power Plan does nothing to boost West Virginia's ailing coal industry. However, it's wrong to blame all of the state's coal woes on the Obama administration.
There are various negative forces at work, such as booming natural gas production, a flattening of electricity demand, and the fact that West Virginia's remaining coal seams are harder to reach and thus more expensive to mine, making the state's coal less attractive on the global market.

While West Virginia's Republican leaders wring their hands over the Clean Power Plan, and as our press cranks out more anti-Obama screed, there is another aspect of the President's 2016 budget they choose to either ignore or dismiss as a form of welfare.

The Power Plus Plan provides funding for programs to assist workers and communities affected by the downturn in the coal industry. It would pour billions of dollars into job training, job creation, economic diversification and other economic efforts in communities that have experienced layoffs due to the declining coal industry. It would also shore up pensions and medical care provided to retired miners.
Condemnation has been fast and furious - Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association, called the plan "Scraps from the table."
A spokesperson for Senator Shelley Moore Capito stated, "It’s important to remember the catastrophic effects this administration’s proposed regulations have had on West Virginia."
As usual, the state coal lobby and whose who shill for them in the halls of government and in the media go for cheap, shoot-from-the-hip comments rather than reasoned discussion.
The Power Plus Plan provides new tax incentives for research, development and implementation of carbon capture technology, to help ensure coal remains a viable energy resource in a marketplace turning to wind, solar and natural gas.
It would put thousands of people to work immediately, cleaning up and reclaiming abandoned mining sites. Retired and disabled miners spurned by the companies they worked so hard for will be taken care of. It would foster diversity in a state economy that has relied on one industry for far too long.
Communities in Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky are passing resolutions supporting the plan, and putting their leaders on notice that they want their state to embrace Power Plus.
Meanwhile, here in West Virginia, our Republican-controlled government has done absolutely nothing to take advantage of the funding and opportunities being presented. They're letting personal views on climate change and a shifting energy landscape cloud their judgment.
It is absolutely essential to get the state of West Virginia moving again. We need diversification, not dependence on coal and coal alone. Remember the old adage about having all of your eggs in one basket?
Ignoring Power Plus while our neighboring states embrace it is a surefire recipe for continuing decline in West Virginia's economy and quality of life.

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