- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

July 30

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, West Virginia, on VA breakthrough:

A compromise in what has been a sharply contested effort to fund reforms and boost health care coverage for veterans was reached Monday between Senate and House negotiators in Washington.

The tug-of-war was noteworthy because it was so public, with Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vermont, and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, releasing a joint statement saying they had “made significant progress” on legislation to make the VA more accountable to vets and improve the health care they receive.

We are heartened to see that Democrats and Republicans, and in Sanders’ case, independents, can still agree on what should be a bipartisan measure.

The VA had said it needs $18 billion to correct its recent widely publicized failures when it comes to our nation’s veterans, including unbelievably long wait times for treatment.

Republicans said they could see $10 billion set aside, but Democrats put forth a $25 billion proposal.

Somewhere near the middle, around $17 billion, a compromise was reached.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, had urged Senate leaders last week to keep Congress from leaving on its August vacation next week until a deal was done.

“We have got to get this done - for our veterans and their families who deserve better than to be kept endlessly waiting for medical care they were promised,” Rahall said. “For elderly veterans in rural areas, where physician shortages and medically underserved pockets are abundant, like in southern West Virginia, Congress must give the VA the resources it needs to hire doctors and expand the availability of medical care.”

When the stakes are high enough, and doing the right thing for our military veterans is about as high as it gets, Congress can put aside its partisanship for the proper cause.

Isn’t it time for more of that?




July 30

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on funding for highways:

The Corridor H Authority this week called on Congress to work together and pass a long-term transportation funding bill rather than another stop-gap spending measure that funds highway construction and repairs for only another 10 months.

For years and on too many projects, Congress tends to “kick the can down the road,” which in this case evokes an image of the can not getting too far due to potholes and deterioration.

The House of Representatives voted on such a bill this week with a $10.8 billion fix with the Senate following suit with an even less ambitious proposed fix.

The short-term solution is better than allowing the fund to go broke, but it does not provide the continuity that states and highway contractors need to plan and conduct highway construction and road repairs over the long term.

“Passing extension after extension just maintains the status quo,” said West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall, the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee. “I’m going to vote for this bill today regardless of it’s not the best solution.”

Corridor H Authority Chairman Robbie Morris spoke to the Daily Mail’s Whitney Burdette. “In West Virginia, with the amount of roads we have to maintain and construction of new infrastructure that can create economic development such as Corridor H, it’s very difficult for (West Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Paul) Maddox and the Division of Highways to plan effectively and allocate funding sources for projects when they don’t know how much they’ll have and for how long.”

Without a sure funding mechanism, work on Corridor H, as well as other highway projects, may slow or even cease.

Congress and the administration need to remember that it’s the basic infrastructure that supports commerce and business development for economic growth. Congress can bicker and withhold funding on the non-essential functions of government, but must focus on providing adequate funds to build and maintain the nation’s highway infrastructure.




July 27

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on war on coal:

The phrase “War on coal” is repeated frequently in West Virginia and Kentucky, most often from coal industry and power company representatives as well as politicians who are either trying to keep their jobs or trying to win election to one.

The reference, of course, is to the Obama administration policies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fueled power plants, as well as the administration’s handling of coal mine permits. President Obama wants to kill the coal industry, these critics say, and that will harm the economies of West Virginia and Kentucky, which produce the second and third most coal, respectively, in the country.

There’s no question that already enacted and proposed regulations from the Obama administration makes use of coal to generate power more costly.

With that backdrop, though, there appeared to be somewhat of a truce last week near Harrodsburg, Ky. On Monday, politicians, researchers and even representatives of the Obama administration gathered at the E.W. Brown Generating Station to talk about a project aimed at helping keep coal as a long-term viable ingredient in the nation’s power-generating mix.

The project involves a $19.5 million testing facility that would capture and separate carbon dioxide from the emission stream after the coal is burned, according to a report by The Associated Press. The technology is viewed as a way to keep old coal-fired power plants operating under increasingly tighter environmental rules. The E.W. Brown plant has coal-fired units that were built in the 1950s.

So far, such “carbon capture” techniques are in the developmental phase because of the big investment required. But it’s good to see examples where the government — yes, that’s right, the government — is partnering with industry with an eye toward making such techniques effective and someday more affordable. The payoff could extend to developing technology that would be useful not only in the United States but could be exported around the world and have a truly global effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

For the Kentucky project, the U.S. Department of Energy contributed $14 million, more than two-thirds of the cost. The department also is sponsoring 15 other similar projects around the country. Clearly, at least one government agency has demonstrated its interest in advancing coal’s prospects in the future. A Department of Energy official, John Litynski, noted at the event Monday that coal remains the nation’s most abundant fossil energy resource. Carbon capture technologies, he said, “are going to be necessary and commercially available for coal to play a significant role while addressing greenhouse gas issues.”

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, himself a frequent utterer of “war on coal,” was on hand Monday and praised the project, calling it “a big step forward for solving one of the biggest challenges facing the Commonwealth today …”

The Harrodsburg project and others like it around the country exemplify how the pertinent industries and government agencies should be approaching the issue of reduced carbon emissions. The government’s interest in limiting carbon emissions to counter global warming is understandable. Likewise, coal remains an essential piece of the nation’s power needs and will for decades to come.

It is good to see the coal and power industries and the government collaborating on solutions rather than waging a war of words.





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