Achieving Energy Transition in West Virginia: How & When?

by Duane Nichols on October 21, 2019

We all live downstream of energy & environmental issues

Time to talk about a fair energy transition (then & now)

By Evan Hansen, Opinion – Editorial, Charleston Gazette – Mail, October 19, 2019

In his October 2nd op-ed, United Mineworkers of America President Cecil Roberts makes an excellent point. We should work together to develop a more sustainable, robust economy in Appalachia that provides opportunity for every working family, including coal miners. I couldn’t agree more.

We needed to start this conversation at least a decade ago. This became evident when I co-authored a report in 2010 that concluded:

……. “Coal production in Central Appalachia is on the decline, and this decline will likely continue in the coming decades. Given the numerous challenges working against any substantial recovery of the region’s coal industry, and that production is projected to decline significantly in the coming decades, diversification of Central Appalachian economies is now more critical than ever. State and local leaders should support new economic development across the region, especially in the rural areas set to be the most impacted by a sharp decline in the region’s coal economy.” ….

I’m not a psychic, and I don’t tell fortunes. But I do review data. Even in 2010, it was clear that coal production was plummeting in West Virginia as natural gas drilling picked up steam, renewables dropped in price and the rich coal reserves in the southern coalfields dwindled.

While this decline in coal production was predictable, I couldn’t imagine back then that I would get elected to the House of Delegates, where I now have a window into the policies that state leaders implement — or fail to implement — as this crisis gets worse.

And it truly is a crisis. Thousands of miners have lost their jobs. As coal companies declare bankruptcy, miners, retirees and their families face the prospects of losing pensions and health care benefits that they earned through years of hard work. Communities are breaking down, school systems are in trouble and the state budget is more difficult to balance. Drug addiction is rampant, life expectancy is down and thousands of children are in need of loving foster homes.

Many state leaders knew that this downward spiral was coming to West Virginia, but refused to publicly acknowledge it, let alone enact policies that, in Cecil’s words, would develop a more sustainable, robust economy. The result? A cruel transition toward poverty, hopelessness, and addiction.

Recently on the House floor, I spoke about the need for a just transition. A just transition starts with acknowledging reality — that Wests Virginia coal production has dropped from 162 to just 95 million tons since 2001. And that it is likely to drop further if more coal-fired power plants close. There will be fewer good, high-paying union coal mining jobs.

But a just transition also acknowledges that it’s unfair for coal miners — who have sacrificed so much over generations for this state and country — to be left behind as the country’s energy production shifts. In a just transition, we appreciate this history while fighting for new opportunities for miners and their families.

>>> Evan Hansen is a Democratic member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from Monongalia County and president of Downstream Strategies, an environmental and economic development consulting company.


Renewable energy will power almost half of the Virginia government by 2022

From an Article by Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury, October 18, 2019

Virginia’s state government will get 45 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022, officials announced Friday morning, exceeding a target established by Gov. Ralph Northam in a recent executive order committing the state to making its electric grid carbon free by 2050.

Both Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest electric utility, and the VA governor’s office hailed the agreement as the largest contract by a state government for renewable energy.

“Clean and renewable energy is a critical key to fighting climate change and is one of the most effective tools we have to address and mitigate these impacts,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Today’s announcement, along with several other clean energy related initiatives currently underway, clearly demonstrate that Virginia is serious about investing in clean energy, reducing carbon emissions, and cleaning up air pollution to improve our environment.”

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: