- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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July 9

The Charleston Gazette on Gov. Jim Justice saying in a statement that loss of the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion “would cripple us beyond belief.”

Never before in U.S. history has a political party attempted to take medical care away from more than 20 million Americans.

Right now is make-or-break time. If Republicans in Congress kill the Affordable Care Act, America will suffer vast damage. And Republicans in West Virginia's Legislature already have inflicted partial damage.

Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement saying loss of the ACA and its Medicaid expansion “would cripple us beyond belief.” And he said the GOP-controlled Legislature abetted the loss. The governor declared:

“Taking away coverage and throwing our people to the wolves is wrong. … It’s not the Mountaineer way to turn our back on the old, the sick, the poor and disabled; but that’s exactly what our state Legislature did when they cut state support for Medicaid.”

A joint statement from the state Insurance Commission and the Department of Health and Human Resources explained:

“The state Legislature cut $64 million from West Virginia’s Medicaid budget and backfilled it with hocus-pocus one-time money.”

If Republicans in Congress repeal the ACA, about 170,000 West Virginians covered by Medicaid would risk losing health care. Counting others who get insurance through ACA exchanges, a total of 218,000 Mountain State residents are in jeopardy, according to the Center on Budget and Policy.

“The Senate GOP health bill would be a disaster for West Virginia and is fatally flawed,” director Ted Boettner said.

Disgustingly, all three West Virginia Republicans in the House of Representatives - Alex Mooney, Evan Jenkins and David McKinley - voted to halt medical insurance for 20 million. Shame should hang on them for years to come.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called the GOP effort “cruel and immoral.” He wrote:

“The basics of Republican health legislation … are easy to describe: Take health insurance away from tens of millions, make it much worse and far more expensive for millions more, and use the money thus saved to cut taxes on the wealthy.”

History will be made in coming weeks. If the GOP repeals the ACA, or if it fails - either outcome will be a landmark. The wellbeing of 20 million people - even more when economic reverberations are factored in - hangs in the balance.

Online: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/

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July 6

Charleston Daily Mail on Appalachian Power Co. broadening its supply to include renewable power sources:

Appalachian Power Co., the utility that provides electric power to much of West Virginia, is smartly - and carefully - broadening its supply portfolio to include renewable power sources such as wind.

But the coal and gas communities need not worry about being abandoned by the utility giant, a key part of the American Electric Power system. As a share of fuel supply, coal will drop from about 61 percent today to 51 percent by 2031. Natural gas will drop from 19 to 11 percent, and wind and solar will grow from 5 to 25 percent.

“We are continuing our transition to an energy company of the future and further diversifying our power generation portfolio,” Appalachian President Chris Beam said in announcing the company’s intent to acquire two wind power facilities under development.

The Beech Ridge II Wind Facility in Greenbrier County will generate about 50 megawatts of power. The Hardin Wind Facility in Ohio will generate 175 megawatts of power, the Gazette-Mail’s Max Garland reported.

“Direct ownership and operation of these facilities will give our employees new experiences in the planning, production and delivery of power from diverse generating assets as Appalachian continues to add renewable resources in the years ahead,” Beam said.

In April, Beam met with Gazette-Mail editors and discussed the company’s transition from a predominantly coal burner to a more diversified supply portfolio.

He said then that large potential customers that Appalachian Power tries to lure to our area - like Amazon and Google - make it clear when scouting locations for huge new energy-gobbling facilities like data centers that they want their power supply be generated from 100 percent renewable sources. Appalachian will do its best to satisfy those customers’ desires.

Yet Beam and other decision makers at Appalachian Power and AEP are smart. They know, better than most, that a future with no reliance on coal and natural gas is more wishful thinking than eventual reality.

They also know that adding renewables makes good sense from both the supply and public relations perspectives. A broad portfolio of energy sources adds to reliability, cost control, and looks good in a public presentation.

But for every well-intentioned new big user with a fossil-free dream, there are thousands more who just want the utility to focus on low cost and reliability. And you can bet Appalachian Power is working to keep them satisfied too.

“The idea that the U.S. economy can be run solely with renewable energy - a claim that leftist politicians, environmentalists and climate activists have endlessly promoted - has always been a fool’s errand,” wrote Robert Bryce in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week. Bryce is a senior fellow in energy for the Manhattan Institute.

Bryce pointed to a recently published National Academy of Sciences paper disputing the all-green energy dream.

“The paper, by Chris Clack, formerly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado Boulder, and 20 other top scientists, … decimates the work of Mark Jacobson, the Stanford engineering professor whose wildly exaggerated claims about the economic and technical viability of a 100 percent renewable-energy system has made him a celebrity … and the hero of Sierra clubbers, Bernie Sanders and Hollywood movie stars.”

“Mr. Jacobson,” Bryce wrote, “became the darling of the green left even though his work was based on Enron accounting, alternative facts and technology hopium. Nevertheless, his claims were politically popular.”

The folks at Appalachian Power and AEP are too savvy to get embroiled in that argument. They have a job to do - supply their customers with safe, reliable and affordable electric power. They are not about to risk their public service obligation on the wistful dreams of movie stars, politicians and well-meaning high-income customers.

So, good for Appalachian Power for diversifying its supply portfolio and considering the desires of customers. And even better for keeping those coal- and natural gas-burning power plants in tip-top shape to supply our need for reliable and affordable power for generations into the future.

Online: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/

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July 6

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington on how the budget passed by state lawmakers affects higher education:

Many of West Virginia’s lawmakers, after passing a bare-bones budget last month, spoke much about how they held the line on spending and avoided any significant tax increases. Indeed, that was the outcome of their budget work, which Gov. Jim Justice allowed to become law without his signature because he could neither endorse the Legislature’s spending plan but also could not risk having a government shutdown for lack of a budget.

However, those affected by some of the provisions of that budget ended up with a different take on the “no tax increase” claim. West Virginia University President Gordon Gee is among them, noting that significant cuts to higher education contained in the budget essentially meant that someone besides lawmakers were left doing the dirty work. That included WVU’s board, which last week approved a 5 percent tuition and fee increase. “Today, we raised taxes on parents and on students,” Gee said. “A tuition increase is a raise in taxes, and anyone in the Legislature who says they didn’t raise taxes, well, they did today.”

Marshall University’s Board of Governors was left in the same situation. After learning that MU’s allocation from the state would mean a loss of $3.2 million, it voted to raise tuition and fees by 9 percent in order to recoup that amount. After cutting back, consolidating jobs and taking other cost-cutting steps in recent years, the board and administration felt it had no choice but to raise tuition by that amount. In total over the last five years, Marshall has lost $14.5 million in base state funding - an amount equal to about 12 percent of the university’s budget for this year.

Both Marshall and WVU were targeted for cuts of more than 6 percent in state support, and virtually all other state universities and colleges also faced reductions - much like they experienced over the last several years. It’s a trend that does the state no good because it raises the barriers for people who seek to improve themselves and their job prospects by gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to become more employable.

That’s especially a negative outcome for a state that needs to improve the education levels of its people, for their benefit as well as the benefit of the state’s economy.

West Virginia ranks near the bottom of many education measures, and the percentage of high school graduates who further their education beyond high school is one of them. The new state budget and its impact on the cost of attending college in the Mountain State comes at a time when West Virginia was showing some improvement in the college-going rate in the past couple of years. But the cuts to higher education and the resulting tuition increases enacted to keep universities solvent is likely to threaten that progress and perhaps cause a reversal.

A better-educated workforce is vital to filling jobs that are now left vacant for lack of qualified applicants, crucial to helping persuade businesses to locate in West Virginia, and for developing the state’s entrepreneurs of the future. But the Legislature’s attitude toward supporting higher education institutions - as demonstrated over the last several years with repeated reductions in allocations - just increases the obstacles to making progress on all those fronts.

“We cannot cut ourselves to prosperity,” WVU President Gee said last week. “No one has been able to do that.” It’s time the Legislature learned that lesson.

Online: http://www.herald-dispatch.com/

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