- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

June 2

Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on the EPA’s largest target:

Whether you watch the regulatory actions of the Environmental Protection Agency with support, amusement, disbelief or horror, it’s worth noting what’s coming next.

In this case, it’s the rumble of the tractor trailer that could be the next target of EPA’s chomp-chomp-chomp regulatory battle against global warming.

This week, EPA is likely to propose regulations cutting greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks, reported Aaron M. Kessler and Coral Davenport in The New York Times.

It means the government will provide a steeper challenge for tractor-trailer fuel efficiency, seeking to raise the average from the current five to six miles a gallon of diesel up to nine miles a gallon by 2027.

This could be a welcome development for those who’ve gotten stuck behind exhaust-heavy tractor-trailers in traffic, but it’s a worry for America’s transportation industry — including plenty of trucking companies that hit the highway on West Virginia’s strategically-located interstates.

“Talk is cheap, but I don’t see how they get there,” John Yandell Jr., president of Yandell Truckaway in Pleasant Hill, Calif., told the Times.

The Times story calls the trucking industry “the beating heart of the nation’s economy,” noting the food, raw goods and freight crisscrossing America’s highways.

It’s worth watching how much cost of meeting new regulations gets passed on to consumers.

The new rules could add $12,000 to $14,000 to the cost of building each new tractor-trailer. EPA estimates, though, that the cost could be recouped after 18 months through fuel savings.

EPA helpfully suggests that truck operators could benefit from regulation in a way that the market presumably could not point. “Fuel is either at the top or near the top of truck operators’ costs,” Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told the Times.

This next regulatory chapter is in its early stages. Once the proposed regulations are introduced, there’s still a public comment period ahead before EPA comes out with a final version.

There’s always something new up around the bend with EPA. It pays to keep your eyes on the regulatory road.




May 31

The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, on water:

Most of us in West Virginia, the 2014 chemical spill near Charleston notwithstanding, tend to take for granted that when we turn a tap on in our homes, good, clean, treated water will start to flow.

For residents comprising 100 households in the Victor, Hico, Branch Road and Saturday Road area of Fayette County, obtaining clean, drinkable water is hard work.

Cynthia Bennett lives in one of those households. Last week she told The Register-Herald just how she goes about bringing water to her home.

Like many of the homes in the area, the cistern water is contaminated with bacteria and unusable to drink or wash clothes.

She has a 200-gallon plastic tank in the bed of her pickup, and several times a month, she drives to a coin-operated tap located in Hico to fill up.

She estimates her cost each year to haul drinking water to her home at $4,900.

“We are a small community of people,” she said, “but we would like to have some water.”

The New Haven Public Service District was formed in the late 1990s, but it still hasn’t extended water lines to the area where Bennett and her neighbors live.

New Haven PSD officials say that funding for water extensions has been drying up, and no new extensions are expected for at least three years.

Bennett and her neighborhood aren’t alone.

Across southern West Virginia, aging infrastructure constructed during the coal boom decades ago is causing more and more water problems. Added to that, the quality of well water in some areas is deteriorating due to septic tank contamination.

And in the smaller communities across southern West Virginia, many do not have high enough populations to qualify for grants for water plants or extensions from existing systems.

Some 300,000 West Virginians went without water after the chemical spill in the Elk River. Thousands of West Virginians go without water every day.

Budget shortfalls at the state level have meant less money for infrastructure improvements over the past few years, so it doesn’t look like Fayette County residents are going to have drinkable tap water any time soon.

Some say there’s not much that can be done.

We say, here in the richest country in the world, that it’s a disgrace.

Even the United Nations issued a resolution in 2011 that clean water is a human right.

Stories like that told by Cynthia Bennett should get the attention of our local, state and federal elected officials.

We often talk about modernizing West Virginia’s economy, of moving away from a model based on coal and extractive industries into something more dependable.

Clean water ought to be just as dependable for all West Virginians, not just those living in the cities.

Where are our elected officials - local, state and federal - on this issue? These are the kind of needs that government at its most basic has to address.

They need to spend less time playing politics, and more time guaranteeing that West Virginians, no matter where they reside, have a standard of living above that found in the Third World.

Without the proper infrastructure, economic diversity in southern West Virginia just isn’t going to happen.




June 3

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on the McDowell program:

“We are the future, and now is the time to follow our dreams.”

That may be a high school commencement clich, but it is one we would all hope to be true.

However, for too many teens in our region, it is not always easy to see those possibilities. The struggles their parents have faced and their own life experience may have limited their goals and already led to some bad choices, such as dropping out of school.

But a mentoring program in McDowell County shows that the input of some caring adults can help change those perspectives, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The Broader Horizons program grew out of the public-private Reconnecting McDowell project set up by the American Federation of Teachers to improve opportunities in the county. This year 17 of the 18 students picked a year ago will graduate from Mount View High in Welch and River View High in Bradshaw. The 18th is a junior.

Many of those new graduates have focused college plans in place and credit the program for helping them find the direction or in some cases the financial means to make it happen. In McDowell, that is no easy task.

The county was once one of the biggest coal producing areas in the country with a population of almost 99,000 in 1950. Today it is home to about 20,000 people with some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the state and many of the social ills to go with it.

Those difficult circumstances have contributed to very high truancy and drop-out rates in area schools. Even among those who graduate from high school, only about 25 percent go on to college.

The mentoring program is working to change those odds. Students not only take trips to see colleges and the nation’s capital, but more importantly meet regularly with an adult mentor to discuss school, life issues and choices. Among the inspiring stories is Rayven Bailey, who is pregnant, but still has plans to major in elementary education at Bluefield State College and return to McDowell County to help the next generation.

“There are kids here that have parents that have drug habits and they don’t have anybody to really look up to,” Bailey told The AP. “So I’d like to be that person for them.”

Her powerful story underscores the importance of mentors and the impact those volunteers can have on young lives and even generations to come. If you feel that calling, check with the United Way of the River Cities’ Education Matters program and one of the area other dropout prevention efforts in our region to see how you can help.



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