West Virginia: Looking Forward

By T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MAT, MA
I have read a lot of people talking about the economic problems currently faced by Terry 2West Virginia. It seems the eco-left doesn’t want to own its crime and accept that their fight to kill coal with the help of the Obama Administration has essentially destroyed the economy of an entire region of this country.
They cast about looking for excuses — natural gas, the so-called “resource curse”, pretty much anything they can latch onto to deflect criticism and responsibility.
They call for the passage of additional taxes on coal, oil, gas, timber, etc. Arguing that these industries that remain should be forced to bear even more of a burden, pushing them further out of the market, in order to pay higher taxes (a “future fund”) to support social programs to help the poor — poor that resulted in large part from their own brain-dead policies.
Let’s look at some of their claims….
First, there is no “resource curse.” To claim so is to blame the band-aid for the cut. West Virginia’s limiting factor is its geography. These mountains isolate people into small pockets and severely limit the single most important factor in diversifying an economy – easily developable land. The result is a small population living in small pockets that can’t support a broad-based economy. The poverty that would otherwise exist there is alleviated by the resource — which is not dependent on population or even infrastructure beyond the basics of a road or rail system to get their product to market.
Second, some talk about the need for a “future fund.” We have had one for 40+ years in the coal severance taxes that have been paid — which has amounted to more than $2 BILLION in the past four years alone. Could they have been started earlier? Perhaps, but what has been the result of having them for the past four decades?
They were squandered in large part by using them to fund holes in the budget of the state. Very little (seven percent of collections) was targeted back to coal-producing counties. Most went to large population areas like Charleston and the eastern Panhandle.
Clearly, had the 10s of BILLIONS of dollars collected over the past 40 years been set aside as a revolving loan fund used for economic development, combined with a focused effort to turn former surface mine lands into economic development hubs or even to get counties to develop true economic development plans, we would not be looking at a modern day dust bowl in the coalfields.
Even a portion of that money would have made a tremendous difference. Instead, the money went into the black hole of the state budget and county economic development efforts were invariably headed up by “Boss Hogg’s nephew Hughey Hogg.”
Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around, but let’s not blame the band-aid for the cut.
There is still time to turn this around, but we need to support the industry that can and has provided us with the economic base to work from over the past 70 years. There is 200 years of coal left in the ground in West Virginia. We need to concentrate on fixing the problems that are hurting coal mining, then make much better use of the money coming from that industry over the next few decades.
THAT is the path forward.

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So you’re upset about Boone County closing trash dumps? Get real!

BY ROGER HORTON, president
Citizens for Coal

I have been reading about the decision this week by the Boone County Commission to shut down its trash dump program.  For years, the county’s thriving coal industry provided enough money to fund a lot of conveniences for its people. Now, it seems, a lot of people are upset because they will no longer be getting free trash disposal.  While I understand no one likes to suddenly have to pay for something they had been getting for free, I have to ask where they have been for the past seven years?

And I also think it’s time for some of the people of Boone County, and Logan County, and Mingo, McDowell, Wyoming, Lincoln, Wayne, Raleigh and West Virginia to GET REAL!
Open your eyes up and take a look around you! Look at what’s happening! Look at what’s BEEN happening for the past seven years!

While this is admittedly a seat of the pants estimate based on numbers from the WV Office of Miners Health Safety and Training, Boone County has lost 1,570 direct mining jobs since 2008 — which is about 41 percent of the county’s 2008 mining workforce.
It has lost about 60 percent of its 2008 coal production — down from 27.4 million tons in 2008 to just 11 million tons in 2014.
The price of coal during that period has fallen from about $85 a ton on average to just $52 a ton and with that the total value of coal produced has fallen by 75 percent.
Direct wages paid by the industry in the county have fallen from $259 million in 2008 to just $160 million in 2014 — a loss of $98.7 million or 38 percent of direct mining wages.
Coal severance tax collections have fallen from $116 million in 2008 to just $28 million in 2014 — down 75 percent — and with that coal severance distributions have fallen by approximately 75 percent as well.
In the meantime, based on the standard multiplier, Boone County has lost approximately 41 percent of the indirect jobs created by the coal industry and about $210 million in indirect wages.
Altogether, Boone County has lost approximately 13,000 jobs either in the county or dependent on mining jobs in Boone County and it has lost about $300 million in wages (direct or indirect), along with most of its most of its coal severance distributions.
The county’s unemployment rate right now is a reported 11 percent and that is based on a population in which less than half the working age people actually work or are looking for work.
It is incomprehensible to me that you all are concerned about the county closing trash dumps.
LISTEN UP PEOPLE — not only will your trash dumps be closing but so will your schools and other county services!  And the same thing is happening all across the state and the region.
This is just a start! And like we have said for the past seven years, this is the result of the Obama war on coal! It’s that simple! You either join us to fight or we all lose!

UPDATED DATA FROM WEST VIRGINIA

Updated Jobs Lost to War on Coal

CHARLESTON — Why is it important for you to be at the OSM hearing in Charleston on September 17th? Here’s why… 8,609 direct mining jobs lost in just the past three and a half years — 35 PERCENT of our mining workforce!
Add to that 48,414 indirect and support jobs and that means the state has lost 56,483 total jobs in just the past four years.
Let those numbers sink in if you don’t think the coal industry matters to you.
Be at the Charleston Civic Center at 5 PM September 17th!

WV Senate President Cole says Legislature Made Substantive Progress in 2015

BIC Chairman Chris Hamilton addresses the crowd in Bridgeport
BIC Chairman Chris Hamilton addresses the crowd in Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT — “The Legislature made substantive and impactful progress in the 2015 legislative session and work has begun in earnest on our 2016 agenda,” said Senate President and Lieutenant Governor Bill Cole in his opening remarks during BIC’s fourth regional business forum Thursday at the Bridgeport Conference Center in Bridgeport, WV. Nearly 60 business and policy leaders from north central West Virginia and across the state participated.

“The legal reforms passed during the last session are starting to bear fruit,” Cole said.

Senate President Bill Cole talks about the 2015 Legislative session and plans for the 2016 session during the meeting at Bridgeport.
Senate President Bill Cole talks about the 2015 Legislative session and plans for the 2016 session during the meeting at Bridgeport.

He referenced that a major insurance company doing business in the state has informed him that they will be announcing a rate reduction on auto insurance by nearly 6 percent in the near future. “That is just one tangible example of your legislature getting results.”

“We’re going to continue to move the needle for West Virginia and we’re going to do it in a big way in 2016,” Cole stated.  “We’re going to take on the hard issues, many of which may have been taboo in the past, but which will make us competitive and bring us in line with other states.” Cole cited Right To Work and Prevailing Wage as policy initiatives the legislature will be considering.

“We’ve got to make changes now,” Cole said. “West Virginia is one of the only states in the country to see a population decrease and we’ve got to reverse that trend.  To do that, we need to double down on the things that are working and stop doing the things keeping us at the top of the “bad” lists.

Cole noted his appreciation for BIC’s role in promoting the policies, as well as the political candidates, that West Virginia needs to move the state forward.

Chris Hamilton, Chairman of BIC, framed the challenges facing West Virginia and BIC’s role in spearheading positive change.

“It is all of our duty here today to support those tackling the hard issues and to elect candidates that will continue this trend into the future,” Hamilton stated.

The event featured a variety of speakers, covering various issues.

Eugenie Taylor with the WV Chamber of Commerce outlined the need for passing public charter school legislation.  “For those with resources in West Virginia, they have the option of sending their children to private schools which they may feel provide their children with the support they need to thrive,” Taylor said. “However, for the majority of West Virginians without such means, they have no alternative to public schools.”

“This is in no way an effort to replace public schools,” Taylor said.  “It is, however, one more tool that can help move West Virginia forward.”  Echoing WVU President Gordon Gee’s comments during the WV Chamber’s recent Business Summit, Taylor said, “West Virginia doesn’t have time for incrementalism.  We need all the tools in the toolbox to be available to us now.”

Taylor said the Chamber is working to build a coalition of public charter school supporters and encouraged those in attendance to contact her should they like to participate.

Senate Education Chairman Dave Sypolt outlined the challenges he and his committee face in working to improve West Virginia’s education system.  “The West Virginia code includes more than 700 pages dealing with education,” Sypolt said. “My goal is to review and simplify the code to create a more student-centered education system.”

Brian Hoylman, Executive Director of the Associated Builders & Contracts, presented on the movement to enact a Workforce Freedom – or Right To Work – law in West Virginia.  “An employee shouldn’t be forced to pay dues to a union as a condition of their employment.”

Hoylman cited a MetroNews poll announced on Labor Day which found that 60 percent of West Virginia voters would support a Right To Work law.  “Interestingly,” Hoylman noted, “only 30 percent of those polled were republicans, which shows the broad based support this initiative has.”

Delegates Amy Summers and Terry Waxman outlined their desire to improve West Virginia’s healthcare and welfare systems and to implement solutions addressing substance abuse.

Corky DeMarco, President of the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association, provided an overview on the immense natural gas resources under the ground in our region.  “West Virginia and our region will overtake Saudi Arabia in terms of oil and gas production when it’s all said and done,” DeMarco stated. “We need the legislature to take steps to assure production continues and that we maximize the downstream opportunities available for economic growth.”

Chris Hamilton outlined the challenges facing West Virginia’s coal industry and the ongoing impact of President Obama’s war on coal.  “We’ve lost approximately 6,000 mining jobs in West Virginia over the past several years and a quarter of our production.  While that is devastating to working families and our economy, we hope that the trend has begun to level off.  Coal will continue to provide a significant portion of America’s electricity into the future.”

Delegate Paul Espinosa, Kathy Wagner, President of the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, and Barbara DeMary, Executive Director of the Region 6 Workforce Investment Board, outlined the economic development challenges and opportunities facing north central West Virginia and the region.

“The two greatest challenges facing north central West Virginia right now are 1) retaining the businesses we have here today, and 2) finding workers for jobs both now and in the future,” said Wagner.

DeMary informed the group that there are a lot of people unemployed and in need of training in the region.  She outlined a federal program that will incent food stamp beneficiaries in the Monongalia, Harrison and Marion County region to begin job training programs or lose their food stamp benefits.

The next BIC regional forum will take place in Vienna on Oct. 8.

SAVE THE DATE — WE NEED YOU THERE TO HELP SAVE YOUR JOBS!

The federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) will hold a public hearing in Charleston on Thursday, September 17, 2015 on what they’re calling the Stream Protection Rule (SPR), which is actually the Stream Buffer Zone Rule and is a complete “rewrite” of the federal surface mining act to the detriment of the mining industry and landowners across the country.  This hearing will be held at the Charleston Civic Center, beginning at 5:00 p.m.   The actual hearing will not begin until 6:00 p.m., but we need to have plenty of miners, suppliers, their families and supporters there early to insure we get signed up to speak before others.   Prior to the Charleston hearing, there will be hearings (noted below) in Pittsburgh and Big Stone Gap, VA, which also need strong industry participation.  The earlier hearings in Denver and Lexington, KY have been successful with good industry presence and involvement.
We’re already hurting badly enough, without them “piling on” with more over-reaching regulations.  And, these really over-reach as they will make it virtually impossible to get a new mining permit, renew the ones we currently have or continue operations in any sense.  WE NEED YOUR HELP!  Please RESERVE THE DATE and plan to be in Charleston on the 17th to help us protect our jobs from this latest attack by Obama’s War on Coal!

  • Thursday, September 17, 2015
    City: Charleston, WV
    Location: Charleston Civic Center
    200 Civic Center Dr., Charleston 25301
    Time: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

If you can’t make it to the Charleston event, here are the dates and sites for the other hearings in our region.

  • Thursday, September 10, 2015
    City: Pittsburgh, PA
    Location: Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh
    500 Mansfield Ave., Pittsburgh 15205
    Time: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, September 15, 2015
    City: Big Stone Gap, VA
    Location: Mountain Empire Community College
    3441 Mt. Empire Rd., Big Stone Gap 24219
    Time: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Congressman Evan Jenkins is Special Guest for June Edition of The Coal Seam Television Show.

CHARLESTON — The Coal Seam television show is in its seventh season on the West Virginia Library Television Network. The show continues to be the source for news about the Mountain State’s coal industry. Congressman Evan Jenkins joined host Chris Hamilton for an exclusive interview for the June 2015 show. The show has an audience of 577,000 West Virginians. Below is a link to the show on Youtube.

Del. Rupie Phillips: “Just Say No to EPA”

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Del. Rupert “Rupie” Phillips, D-Logan authored a resolution adopted by web1_phillips_rupert-CMYKthe Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) calling for member states to take action against the Environmental Protection Administration’s Clean Power Plan. The resolution was adopted on July 19 by the energy and environment committee at the four-day annual meeting in Savannah, Georgia.

“Through the Clean Power Plan, the EPA has once again produced another far-reaching, overly burdensome regulation. They’re continually tying the hands coal-producing states and the effects have been absolutely devastating for southern West Virginia.”

Del. Phillips added, “It’s time to draw a line in the sand. The EPA is pushing us around like they are a bunch of punks. I just want the states to stand together and say ‘no.’”

The adopted resolution states, “The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments finds that EPA’s Clean Power Plan interferes with the sovereign powers of the states to regulate electricity within their borders and to ensure a reliable and affordable supply of electricity for their citizens. Therefore, The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments urges State Attorneys General to take all legal actions after EPA issues its final Plan to prevent unlawful obligations from being imposed on states, electricity providers, businesses and citizens, up to and including, at each state’s discretion, refusing to submit Clean Power Plan implementation plans to EPA.”

Del. John B. McCuskey, R-Kanawha also attended the conference and supported the measure saying, “As we pass this resolution through the SLC, I am proud to stand with Delegate Rupie Phillips to push back against harmful federal overreach which unfairly targets the hard working men and women of our state’s coal economy. The people of our state don’t want anything extra, they just want a chance to compete, and it is our hope to ensure that these proud people are given the opportunity to continue to power America. The EPA needs to realize that the jobs lost due to their policies are not just statistics, these are real people, and their suffering is real.”

Several other delegates who attended the conference also supported the measure including Del. Gary Howell, R-Mineral; Del. Woody Ireland, R-Ritchie; Del. Joe Statler, R-Monongalia and Del. Mark Zatezalo, R-Brooke.

The Southern Legislative Conference is the largest of four regional legislative groups that operate under the Council of State Governments. It comprises the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia

WE NEED YOUR HELP! Support Changes to WV’s Water Quality Standards that will Help Stabilize the Coal Industry

Enough-is-Enough-2015WHEN:  July 21, 2015, from 6 to 8 p.m.
WHERE:  Coopers Rock Training Room at DEP headquarters in Kanawha City, Charleston.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has FINALLY proposed revisions to the state’s water quality standard for SELENIUM.

In response to a mandate from the West Virginia Legislature, WV DEP is proposing to adopt a fish-tissue based selenium standard that more accurately reflects the most current science on selenium concentrations and stream health.

The proposed standard uses the federal government’s OWN recommendations and calculations and is virtually identical to a similar standard in Kentucky that has been approved by EPA.

State and federal regulators have long known the current selenium water standard was egregiously FLAWED but coal companies and other industries were required to install MILLIONS of dollars in unnecessary treatment systems to meet a meaningless standard.

The proposed revisions to the selenium standard are the first step by the state to implement a more reasonable set of regulatory measures that level the playing field for coal mines in West Virginia.   In addition to selenium, the agency has also proposed changes to the Aluminum standard, another flawed criteria that requires expensive treatment systems, while doing nothing to protect the environment. Most states have NO aluminum standards at all, so the proposed change still makes West Virginia’s standards more stringent than most other coal producing states.

The anti-mining extremists like the Sierra Club will no doubt be at this hearing in full force, spinning fairy tales of environmental woe, alarmism and offering crocodile tears for our communities.

We need to be the REAL representatives of our state’s coal miners and coalfield communities at this hearing by SUPPORTING the proposed water standard changes that are ENTIRELY protective of the environment and restore SANITY and COMMON SENSE to the regulation of mining.

Cutting the EPA: Correct Approach by Jenkins

CHARLESTON — U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va. announced last week that he has been able to cut $1.2 billion in funding from the EPA as part of a proposed 2016 Appropriations bill. Jenkins said the EPA funding targeted for elimination was being used to wage the Obama administration’s ongoing war on coal.

The measure cleared the subcommittee last Wednesday. The bill also seeks to block the implementation of new rules on coal-fired power plants and seeks to prevent the EPA from implementing a controversial new water rule that would designate puddles and ponds as “navigable water,” Jenkins said.

As promised, Jenkins said he and other members of the Appropriations subcommittee went through the EPA’s budget with a “fine tooth comb” and found millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars that are being used to wage a war on the coalfields of southern West Virginia and neighboring Southwest Virginia.

Jenkins says the measure will move to the full House Appropriations Committee for approval next week, and then to the full U.S. House of Representatives. A similar companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.

Jenkins says he is cautiously optimistic that there are enough votes for the Appropriations bill to pass the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives. So are we. This is an opportunity for the new Republican majority in both the House and the U.S. Senate to live up to a critical campaign promise, and to make a significance difference in helping parts of the country that are suffering as a result of a six-year-old war on coal led by President Obama.

State, Regional Leaders to Discuss Issues Impacting Coal Industry June 9th in Charleston

Charleston, WV (June 2, 2015) – The West Virginia Coal Forum – an organization representing both labor and management in the coal industry – in conjunction with multiple local, regional and national partners, will host a forum to highlight the challenges and opportunities facing the coal industry from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Charleston.

Media are encouraged to attend.

Entitled “West Virginia Coal – 2015 & Beyond”, this first in a series of educational and informational events will bring attention to the impact of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, state and federal environmental regulations and strategies for confronting these critical issues head on.

Presenters scheduled to participate include:

  • Senate President Bill Cole
  • House Speaker Tim Armstead
  • Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
  • Dr. John Christy, Climatologist
  • Jeff Herholdt, WV Division of Energy
  • Representatives of the coal and power generation industries
  • Chris Hamilton, Vice-President, WV Coal Association & Co-Chair, WV Coal Forum
  • Fred Tucker, UMWA, Co-Chair, WV Coal Forum

Seating is limited and reservations are required. To make a reservation click here.