- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

April 21

Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on Manchin’s decision to stay in Senate:

Sen. Joe Manchin’s Sunday announcement that he would not return to West Virginia and seek a third term as governor was a relief to other potential candidates, and to West Virginia taxpayers.

The Democrat had been toying with the idea of vacating his Senate seat. A recent poll showed Manchin had the edge in a hypothetical matchup against Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. But Manchin announced on CBS This Morning his intentions of staying out of the 2016 election cycle.

Since he arrived on Capitol Hill five years ago, Manchin has voiced his frustration with Washington politics, saying it’s nearly impossible to pass any meaningful legislation when lawmakers concentrate more on partisanship than the good of the public.

That fueled speculation that Manchin, one of the state’s most popular politicians, would give up his Senate seat and seek a return to the Governor’s Mansion in 2016.

Manchin was an effective governor, and he’ll be a more effective Senator now. He offers a moderate view and hasn’t shied away from criticizing the Obama administration or Harry Reid, who did not earn Manchin’s vote as minority leader when Congress convened earlier this year.

But Obama will be out of office in 2017 and Reid will retire at the end of his term. A changing of the guard could mean a more deliberative tone in Washington.

Perhaps without obstructionist Reid and a more even-handed commander in chief, Congress can successfully introduce, debate and pass new laws. That is the Washington Manchin - and America - would rather see.

Manchin staying put also means no more special elections. The state was forced to fund not one, but two special elections when Manchin vacated the Governor’s Mansion after Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s death in 2010.

If Manchin had decided to run for governor in 2016, voters would potentially again be asked to participate in two special elections to replace Manchin the U.S. Senate, as his seat won’t be up for re-election until 2018.

Manchin is smart, pragmatic and loves his home state. He said leaving his position as governor to fill Byrd’s seat was the hardest political decision of his life. To stay in Washington is the second hardest.

Difficult though that decision may be, it is the right one. With Manchin’s political prowess and growing influence, he could become an even bigger player in the Senate.

Couple that with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s experience, the pair could develop relationships with senators on both sides of the aisle, advocate for bipartisan legislation and pack a one-two punch that moves West Virginia forward.




April 19

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, West Virginia, on “aftershocks” from decline of coal:

The decline of coal in southern West Virginia continues to be felt in our communities.

The loss of jobs is perhaps the most immediate impact, and the hardship that those layoff notices have placed on families is significant and real.

But there are other effects that are more subtle, that we could almost characterize as “aftershocks” that are occurring down the line.

Today we have a story exploring the effects of the striking decline in coal severance taxes that most counties in southern West Virginia are now experiencing.

State revenue numbers show that coal severance taxes hit a peak in 2012 of $531.1 million, and have been in a steep decline ever since.

In 2014, coal severance tax revenues had dropped to $407.1 million statewide.

Natural gas severance taxes have picked up some of that slack. But those gas wells aren’t in southern West Virginia, and most of those tax revenues go to counties in the northern part of the state where the gas fields are located.

In addition, counties here grew to depend on other taxes related to coal, such as local taxes on land, mining equipment and coal inventories.

Mass layoffs of county employees have occurred in Nicholas and Mingo counties this year due to the decline of coal severance taxes. Officials in other counties fear they may be next.

As Mark Muchow, deputy secretary of the West Virginia Department of Revenue told The Wall Street Journal, the immediate future will require a period of “serious adjustment.”

Whatever is to blame for coal’s decline, whether regulatory overreach or increasing global competition or a combination of the two, it seems clear that what is now occurring may not be part of the historic cycle that always has ended with coal’s resurgence.

As painful as the job losses of our friends, our neighbors and within our own families may be, we hope that our elected officials use these to accelerate efforts to diversify the economy of southern West Virginia.

Our region is rich in people and in natural resources and blessings that are not coal.

For too long we have gone through these boom-and-bust coal cycles with typical Appalachian resignation, prepared to wait things out until the coal downturn turns around and good times blossom again.

The only way to insulate ourselves from this cycle is to continue to nurture our coal industry and the jobs it provides, but at the same time be building a broader foundation of new kinds business that bring new kinds of jobs.

It won’t be easy, and will require an active and aggressive partnership between public officials, citizens, businesses and educational institutions to make sure we have a strategy for the future and the workforce to staff it.

As the man said, a period of “serious adjustment” lies ahead of us.

Let’s get to work




April 20

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia on EPA rules for coal-fired power plants:

Even if the odds are against you, sometimes it is important to make your case.

West Virginia and 14 other coal-reliant states gave oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week challenging new proposed regulations for coal-fired power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency has outlined a plan to require states to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and has detailed preliminary targets for each state.

The rule also would charge each state with developing a plan to meet the goal.

While the rules will not be finalized until this summer, leaders in our region know enough to see that these changes will kill jobs, force coal companies to shut down plants and drive up electricity prices. Some of that already is happening, just in anticipation of the new rules.

So, the reaction Thursday of two of the judges on the three-judge panel was a little discouraging.

Judges Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh indicated they felt the challenge was premature until the EPA finalizes its rules.

“Typically, we’re not in the business of guessing what the final rule would look like,” Griffith said, according to The Associated Press. Sadly, waiting until the rules are implemented does further damage to our regional economy.

At this stage, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and others are arguing a legal point - that carbon emissions from power plants already are regulated under a different section of the Clean Air Act. The new rules would constitute “double regulation,” which is prohibited by the law.

But the challenge also provides an opportunity to make a broader economic case on a national stage. As usual, the EPA has come up with unrealistic targets and failed to consider the impact on jobs, consumer costs and the reliability of energy supplies.

“We filed the suit after the rule was proposed because we thought the harm to the state of West Virginia was already starting to occur,” Morrisey told The Herald-Dispatch last week.

We urge the judges to take that longer view of the issue and find the new rules illegal.



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