- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

March 16

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on population decline showing need for diversification:

West Virginia leaders have to be asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

While each of our neighboring states showed some growth in the 2013 census population estimates, West Virginia was one of the few states in the nation that saw a slight population decline.

Kentucky’s population was up about 16,000 people and Virginia’s about 74,000. Ohio and Pennsylvania also had small gains, but the Mountain State had a net loss of 2,400 people.

That loss erases about half of the meager gain the state had made since the 2010 census.

West Virginia’s population in 2010 was 1,852,999, and the 2013 estimate is 1,854,304 — a difference of 1,305 people or about one-tenth of a percent.

The most recent estimates show that 41 of West Virginia’s counties lost population between 2012 and 2013.

Clearly, the loss of jobs in the coal industry over the past few years has taken its toll. But the state’s aging population also is a looming factor.

There were more deaths than births in 42 of 55 counties — a difference of about 1,000 overall. That loss accounts for about 40 percent of the overall decline, and with the baby boom hitting retirement age, that trend is expected to continue.

The downturn is yet another reminder that there is no room for a status-quo approach to the West Virginia economy. State leaders hope the proposed ethane cracker plant in Wood County will help realize some job gains from the booming natural gas industry, but more needs to be done to diversify the economy and add new jobs, especially in the state’s southern and rural counties.




April 1

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, W.Va., on energy market:

Coal continues to lead the way when it comes to West Virginia’s exports, despite a decline of 26 percent over the previous year.

U.S. Census figures released last week show we exported $8.4 billion worth of products in 2013, which was the third-highest total in state history, but below the record $12.3 billion in exports in 2012.

Coal was our top export, but fell 40 percent to $4.4 billion from $7.4 billion the previous year.

“The world markets know the high quality of West Virginia’s coal both for steam and steel production,” said West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney. “So while last year was a bit of a struggle, we continue to see exports as a bright spot for our state’s coal industry.”

We wish we could say the same for the export possibilities of the state’s booming natural gas industry.

U.S. exports of crude oil are banned by a 1975 law passed following the Arab oil embargo. Under a 1938 law, natural gas exports are for all practical purposes prohibited as well. Refined products such as gasoline are allowed to be exported.

So why doesn’t the United States export crude oil or natural gas?

Because, writes energy expert Amy Harder in The Wall Street Journal, those laws were based on the idea of energy scarcity, and were designed to protect the American energy market from higher domestic prices by blocking our oil and gas from being sold overseas.

But technology, which has changed so much in our daily lives, also has changed the energy equation in America.

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, crude oil is flowing freely from the Bakken fields in North Dakota and from the Eagle Ford play in Texas.

And fracking for natural gas in the shale formations in West Virginia and neighboring states is also helping change the game when it comes to energy production in the United States.

We’re not economists, but it seems obvious to us that an export market in natural gas would be a godsend for West Virginia, and help replace the revenue we’ve lost by the reduction in coal exports.

We’d even go so far as to say that removing restrictions on the export of crude oil and natural gas would have far-reaching benefits for America’s economy and foreign policy as well.

It’s time our regulatory restrictions over energy exports start to catch up with the pace of technological innovation in America.

So to our leaders in Washington, we say: Tear down those laws.




April 1

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on high speed police chases being worth it:

You used to see them on the TV cop show dramas. The bad guy takes off in his car with the police behind him in hot pursuit. The cars drive at high speeds through the city streets, barely missing pedestrians and sideswiping parked cars until the one being pursued crashes and is caught by the police.

Today you can see real life versions on You Tube videos. Exciting and dramatic video footage of cops on the trail of a speeding and reckless vehicle. The dangerous chase goes on, often, until it ends in a spectacular crash.

Two police pursuits involving speeds of more than 100 miles per hour happened in West Virginia this week, one in Huntington on Saturday and one in the early hours of Monday that started in Hurricane and ended in St. Albans. Fortunately, no one was hurt and property damage was minimal in these chases, but that’s not always the case.

In Martinsburg in 1996, a 21-year-old nursing student returning home from working late at WalMart died when a driver traveling more than 100 miles per hour in pursuit by the State Police slammed into her car head on.

In Charleston in 2005, a truck driven by a 69-year old woman was struck and the driver killed by a speeding Charleston police cruiser driven by officer Brandon Tagayun, who, with no headlights and no siren, was pursuing a suspect.

There are many more such stories based on high-speed pursuits in West Virginia and across the country.

USAToday reported in 2010 that about 35 to 40 percent of police chases end in crashes, killing 360 people each year. While most of the deaths involve the fleeing driver, innocent people and even police become the victims at times.

Recent high speed pursuits show that many West Virginia law enforcement organizations still need to adopt strict policies to guide officers in the very rare instances when it would be acceptable to give chase.

Pursuing a drunken driver or other offender at high speed is not worth the risk to innocent people who may be on the road.



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