- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Aug. 13

The Herald-Dispatch on test scores:

West Virginia education officials last week highlighted improvements in math scores on the annual student assessment tests administered last spring, but correctly acknowledged that there is work left to do to boost achievement to an acceptable level.

Make that much work to do.

According to results from the state Board of Education, math scores rose in five of the six grades tested while dropping a bit in the other. However, in English language arts, four of the six grades showed a decline in the percentage of students who were proficient, with one grade showing improvement and yet another remaining the same.

Those trend lines show a mixed picture of progress. But going beyond the trend lines and looking at the portion of students who tested as proficient presents a still dismal picture regarding whether the state’s education system is doing an adequate job of preparing students for the future.

In math, only about a third (34 percent) of students tested as proficient, with barely more than a fifth (22 percent) of high school juniors testing at that level last year.

The overall percentage of students testing proficient in English language arts was significantly higher, at 47 percent. But the flip side of that is more than half of students were lacking in that subject area. It’s generally recognized that good language skills are crucial to doing well in other subjects.

In those grades tested on science, less than 4 in 10 students demonstrated proficiency.

What also continues to be troubling is that in national assessments, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress or Nation’s Report Card, West Virginia has repeatedly fallen significantly below national averages in most subject areas. With the relatively small movements made in last year’s results compared with the years before, it’s unlikely that status has changed.

Improving student achievement in the state has been a talking point for years among office-holders, and various changes have been put in place - either out of sincere hope to show progress or as political statements. State standards have been changed and then slightly altered again. The annual assessment of student achievement also has undergone several changes over the last decade and yet another new one is planned at the end of the school year that’s about to start. Some educators complain that changing standards and curriculum only hampers any true progress, and there’s likely truth to that. And constantly changing the way progress is measured makes it difficult to get a true picture of longer-term performance.

In any case, the latest results make it clear that the issue continues to beg for attention. That demands the involvement of the governor, the legislature and education officials. They must work together - rather than at odds with each other - to arrive at a unified vision and strategy to improve results in this vital area.

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

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Aug. 11

The Journal on pipeline project:

A 10-inch, 22-mile long pipeline running through Morgan County has caused contention in recent weeks.

Critics of Mountaineer Gas Company’s pipeline project have spoken out about eminent domain and environmental concerns - both of which are important to us and to the community. We believe, however, a great deal of misinformation has been circulating about the project - a project that will bring investment to the area and will make natural gas available to customers and businesses in Morgan County that did not have the option before.

The project will connect to a larger transmission line above Berkeley Springs, and extend a distribution pipeline 22 miles through Morgan County to connect to a pipeline already present near Martinsburg. The pipeline currently in existence here is a “one-way” pipeline, which means it has one source, coming from the south. If service is disrupted in that line, local residents and businesses will be without natural gas service.

Adding a second line, “redundancy” in industry terminology, will bring reliability and safety to the region. It will provide stability for the area’s schools, hospitals, businesses and homes.

It also meets the needs of an area with continued growth. In fact, Mountaineer Gas was asked by the Governor’s Office, the West Virginia Department of Commerce, economic development groups in the area and local community and business leaders to do this project.

Who is Mountaineer Gas? Are they a large, national corporation coming in to do gas drilling, infringe on landowners and run away with full pockets?

No.

Mountaineer Gas Company is a West Virginia-based company that has operated a pipeline in Martinsburg for decades without a problem. They are a public utility company, a supplier of natural gas, not an exploration company. They should not be confused with TransCanada or Keystone Oil. This gas distribution project will only supply gas to residents and businesses in West Virginia.

Mountaineer Gas is headquartered in Charleston with more than 460 employees serving 220,000 customers with 6,000 miles of distribution lines. They are regulated by the Public Service Commission and West Virginia Pipeline Safety.

The Public Service Commission has already signed off on the first phase of the project.

It is unfortunate for all parties that eminent domain would need to take place for this project to move forward. Concerns were made public at a recent meeting in Morgan County. This is the right of any landowner.

But it is also important for the public to consider all the facts. Of the 146 tracts of land the project crosses, 138 have been acquired - more than 90 percent of the landowners involved are on board with the project.

Does this mean the rights of one landowner do not matter? We’re not saying that. But we believe portraying Mountaineer Gas Company as a ruthless company trampling over the rights of landowners is not accurate.

The public should carefully weigh all the aspects of this project, not just those made by the loudest group.

Online: https://www.journal-news.net/

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Aug. 14

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph on regional partnership:

In a rare but welcomed showing of regional support, all seven coalfield counties in Southwest Virginia have now passed resolutions of support for a planned hydroelectric pumped storage facility.

All of the localities also have backed the concept of a regional revenue sharing agreement for the proposed development. This includes the counties of Tazewell, Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Wise and the city of Norton. Each resolution passed with strong support from the Boards of Supervisors in each county and the Norton City Council, according to a joint press release issued last week by Senator Ben Chafin, R-Russell, Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City and Delegate Todd Pillion, R-Washington.

Dominion Energy is planning to invest more than a billion dollars in the construction of a pumped hydroelectric storage station for the coalfield region.

Pumped hydroelectric storage facilities act as large batteries that store energy. When excess energy is available, power is used to pump water from a lower elevation reservoir up to a higher elevation reservoir providing grid stability. The water is stored in the upper reservoir until a later period when energy is in demand. At that point the water is allowed to flow downhill to a power generation facility where it spins turbines. The turbines turn generators that produce electric power that is then delivered to the electric grid.

The company is currently looking at a number of sites in the coalfield counties for the project, which would create hundreds of jobs during the multi-year construction phase, and approximately 50 permanent positions. The hydroelectric storage power station will cost more than $1.8 billion to build, and would provide millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the locality that is ultimately selected for the development.

But the revenue sharing agreement backed by the coalfield counties last week means rather than one locality reaping all of the benefits associated with the pump station, that tax revenue associated with the project would be shared across jurisdictional lines.

“While each and every community has been impacted by the decline in coal, local and state officials see this new opportunity as a win for the region,” Chafin, Kilgore and Pillion said in a joint statement. “This regional partnership represents a unique opportunity for the localities to work together in a project that could bring significant investment to the area. With the concept of revenue sharing agreed to, the individual localities will now begin the process of working together to determine the specifics of a revenue sharing agreement.”

We are glad to see the counties working together in a true spirit of regional cooperation on such a large-scale economic development project. The revenue sharing agreements backed by the localities will ensure that tax revenue from the proposed pump station will benefit the entire coalfield region.

Online: https://www.bdtonline.com/


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