Looking Forward: Energy Policy in WV & USA

by Duane Nichols on January 15, 2016

Row of Windmills on Mountain Ridge

Securing W. Va.’s economic future: www.thedaonline.com

Editorial, The Daily Athenaeum (WVU Student Newspaper), January 15, 2016

Like President Barack Obama, West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin is reaching the end of his second and final term. In his final State of the State address on Wednesday, Tomblin addressed current issues in West Virginia and offered potential solutions to the problems.

With decreasing profits from prominent industries like natural gas and coal, Tomblin urged people to consider reinvesting in West Virginia’s mining communities. He also advocated for an increase in taxes, as the state continues to see budget gaps that are projected to only increase in size over time.

Though coal is West Virginia’s most notable industry, it’s no surprise that this state will eventually run out of all minable resources. The decline in both the national gas and coal industries in the state indicates the beginning of what can only be a continuous economic fall. Without any other industry to support this state’s residents, families will end up in poverty if an alternate source of jobs for unskilled workers isn’t found.

West Virginia is too mountainous to hold any true farmland, and though the tourism industry draws many fisherman, hikers and whitewater rafters, it may not be enough to support this state’s economy. However, if miners can currently remove entire mountaintops as a way to harness energy, building wind turbines on untouched mountaintops and training workers to maintain them should solve both our energy needs and create new sources of jobs and revenue in West Virginia.

In 2014, West Virginia only had 327 wind turbines while Pennsylvania had 720. Wind energy jobs are already found in every state, and looking into the possibility of expanding our wind energy output may be the start of a slow transition away from relying upon mining onto permanently utilizing renewable energy.

Tomblin should stop hanging onto the ways of the past and start spearheading the search for new industries and livelihoods able to support West Virginians permanently. Getting this process started for our next governor to continue during his or her time in office is critical in ensuring the protection of West Virginia’s economic future.

>>> Huge News from the Sierra Club (National Organization)  <<<

President Obama and Interior Secretary Jewell just announced a suspension of all new mining on federal public land and an urgently needed review of the entire federal coal program.

Today is a historic moment — and it wouldn’t have been possible without you.

America is finally waking up from its fossil fuel dependency nightmare. We are turning the corner to a future in which we will no longer let our health suffer from the dangers of coal mining and development, no longer sacrifice our public lands, our climate, and our communities for a fossil fuel that has wreaked havoc for generations. Today we choose, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, to “invest in the future… rather than subsidize the past.”

Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club, January 15, 2016

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mountain Party (1/14/16) January 15, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Open Letter – For Immediate Release — January 14, 2016

Mountain Party Response to the West Virginia State of the State Address

We know our history and we understand our present struggles in this state. Our miners continue to give their lives so that others can consume “cheap electricity.” We’ve literally given billions of gallons of our valuable clean water so that the oil and gas industry can force fossil fuels from the ground. We’ve lost our lands, our communities and our peace of mind for the sake of “profit” which escapes our state in railroad cars and in pipelines. And when the global markets decrease consumption of our precious resources, our men and women lose their jobs and their livelihoods.

In spite of this loss, we’ve never lost understanding of our worth. We know that there is a more prosperous future for our communities, our economy and our state, if we so choose.

We must begin by recognizing that out of state interests have disproportionate amounts of control over our state policies. Organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) are influencing policies in our state with complete disregard for the impact on our local communities. At the same time, gas corporations are lobbying to take our private property through forced pooling legislation; lobbying to take what our mineral owners refuse to give.

In his last State of the State address we heard Governor Tomblin claim to “put West Virginia first” with 250 companies coming into our state, but fail to address why our workers’ wages remain stagnant. So who is benefiting from this “growth” in economic activity? Our state population continues to decline as counties with increased oil and gas production lose the most. Current policies have created a strong “business climate” but what about our natural environment? The last “overhaul” of horizontal gas well drilling regulations was in 2011 and since then we’ve seen our friends and neighbors literally fall ill as a result of gas production in their communities. Overall, our cancer rates and mortality rates are the highest in the country.

Supporting our miners as global consumption of coal decreases means expanding opportunities beyond fossil fuels. The solar industry added more jobs than any other sector in 2015, yet our state leaders continue to stand in the way of expanding this growth into our state. Along with broadening renewable industry in the state, our workforce deserves a prevailing wage for their labor. It is impossible to stimulate the economy when our working families are struggling just to make ends meet. We must also address the influx of out of state workers brought in by the oil and gas industry while our local workers struggle with unemployment. And if West Virginia already has the “best business tax climate Index in the region,” why is so called “Right to Work” legislation necessary? Governor Tomblin failed to mention that particular piece of pending legislation as hundreds of opponents of the bill watched him speak.

Citing “a lack of flat land” for industrial development, Governor Tomblin continues to ignore the value of our geography which, when protected, creates trillions of gallon of clean water every year. Few can deny that our next wars will be over water, yet we continue to compromise our valuable water resources in West Virginia. Instead of using mountaintop removal landscapes as an economic caveat, we should be asking and providing answers as to why these sites weren’t developed years ago, as promised during the permitting process?

We heard Governor Tomblin advocate for the removal of severance taxes from coal and gas while raising taxes on telecommunications use which would once again aim to balance the state budget on the backs of working West Virginians. Asking the oil and gas industry to simply pay a fraction of a cent for each gallon of water they pull from our streams and rivers would create hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for counties and the state. Currently they pay nothing for the water they take. And the second anniversary of the largest contamination of a public water source – the Elk River chemical leak which left 300,000 West Virginians without drinking water for weeks in 2014 – was not mentioned.

The most direct and immediate way West Virginia can address our prescription pill problems is by following the lead of other states which have used medical marijuana to cut prescription pill overdoses by up to 25%. These same states have also brought in hundreds of millions in revenue and have seen crime rates dramatically decrease.

In his address, Governor Tomblin advocated for hundreds of miles of expanded oil and gas export pipelines. Instead of promoting these devastating projects which are largely opposed by local communities, we should protect and expand our local water production and tourism industries in the counties in the southeastern part of the state which are growing in population and thriving.

As the Mountain Party and as mountain people we value much more than the minerals that lie beneath these ancient hills and the businesses here to extract them. West Virginia has been called the crown gem of Appalachia and the Mountain Party of West Virginia continues to fight to protect the true bounty of our state: our mountain people.

Elise Keaton, State Executive Chair, Mountain Party of West Virginia

Contact: Tom Rhule 304-989-1629


Sara Shor January 16, 2016 at 1:06 am

Huge news: the Obama administration is putting a moratorium on new coal sales on public lands

To: Friends of 350.org

This moratorium will keep enormous amounts of carbon in the ground and move the U.S. closer toward hitting our climate goals set in Paris. And if our next President makes the moratorium permanent, this could end up being the single biggest step toward keeping fossil fuels in the ground that the U.S. has ever taken. We’re talking about 212 gigatons of carbon left safely underground! (To put that in perspective, the Canadian tar sands represent about 240 gigatons of carbon.)

This is a real movement-driven victory too: from marching in the streets across the country (and around the world) this past December, to winning big fights like the Keystone XL rejection and Arctic drilling — today’s announcement is possible because of the momentum that you’ve had a hand in creating. The climate movement is really changing the political game.

And we can’t stop now. This win is a huge deal, but this fight isn’t over. We’re calling on Obama to end all government sales of fossil fuels — including oil and gas.

The administration’s plan is to stop federal coal sales and do a complete review of the federal coal leasing program, which has essentially been giving away our public lands to the fossil fuel industry to extract coal (and oil and gas) since 1920.

Most importantly, the review will focus on the climate impacts of coal — and any proper climate review will conclude that we need to leave the coal on public lands untouched. The industry already has five times more coal, oil and gas reserves than we can safely burn. Keeping climate change below 2°C, which the Obama administration has pledged to do — let alone the 1.5°C it said in Paris that we should be aiming for — means a radical shift toward keeping fossil fuels in the ground across the board.

Here’s what the head of the National Mining Association said about this decision: “It appears that they’re going after the federal coal leasing program with the intention of keeping coal in the ground.” Yes!

Keeping coal in the ground is exactly what needs to happen. Let’s make sure oil and gas are next.

Fossil fuels have no place in a 21st century energy plan, and our government has no business selling them. President Obama could keep half of all U.S. fossil fuels underground forever by banning government sales of all fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel companies already have way more fossil fuels than we can burn — we can’t afford to sell them any more. This win is great news, but this fight is nowhere near done.

We’ve got the upper hand right now, and momentum is key.

Let’s keep winning, Sara Shor, http://350.org


>>> In Climate Move, Obama Halts New Coal Mining Leases on Public Lands, New York Times.

>>> The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels, Eco-Shift Consulting.

>>> Game Over for the Climate, James Hansen, New York Times.


False Progress October 26, 2019 at 4:54 am

“However, if miners can currently remove entire mountaintops as a way to harness energy, building wind turbines on untouched mountaintops and training workers to maintain them should solve both our energy needs and create new sources of jobs and revenue in West Virginia.”

Sure, just replace one form of mountaintop removal with another (less rock removed, but ugly spears visible for dozens of miles, day and night). At least ask to only build wind turbines on developed ridges or farmland.

The economics of wind energy are poor because it will always be intermittent and requires conventional power backup. It’s also a growing threat to anything that flies in its path (birds, bats and insects).

Replacing Big Coal with Big Wind is blight for naught. It won’t save the economy or the planet. It’s just becoming a warmer, uglier place with cronies profiting from business-as-usual.


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