Charleston Gazette-Mail. May 3, 2021.

Editorial: Manchin’s plan to rebuild will help WV

Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., co-sponsored two pieces of legislation that could help West Virginians recover economically in the twilight of the coal industry.

Manchin was a co-sponsor of the bipartisan effort to extend the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee levied on coal companies by another 15 years. The fee, which is used to help redevelop and repurpose abandoned mine sites — of which there are many in West Virginia — expires in September.

The same group of senators also introduced what is referred to as the RECLAIM Act — a long acronym for a program that would invest in communities affected by the continuing downturn of the coal industry. Again, there is no shortage of those communities in West Virginia.

The two programs would funnel $1 billion into those communities to clean up abandoned mine sites, including numerous polluted water sources in those areas, while investing in economic development for those communities and creating job opportunities and training services for dislocated miners.

House Democrats in the West Virginia Legislature attempted similar legislation during the 2021 session, but an original bill was dismissed by the Republican supermajority, while a similar proposal offered up as an amendment to another bill was rejected.

Unlike state Democrats, Manchin, whose centrist stance has made him a linchpin to bills like President Joe Biden’s recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, has the leverage to maneuver legislation on his own wish list. He might even convince more of his Republican colleagues in the chamber to join him, given the shellacking some have taken after every one of them voted against the American Rescue Plan but later tried to take credit for its results.

Political games aside, this could be something to get West Virginia moving in the right direction. It cannot be ignored that West Virginia continues to lose population — topping the 2020 U.S. Census with an outflow of 3.2% of the state’s total population over the past 10 years. It can’t be ignored that West Virginia can’t begin to compete for growth, jobs or any type of economic restoration without improved infrastructure, including the very basic need of clean water.

These two bills are a step in the right direction. Hopefully, they will find support in the U.S. Senate and House, so West Virginians will have necessary resources and a place to start in rebuilding viable communities that offer real opportunities for economic recovery.

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(Martinsburg) Journal-News. May 2, 2021.

Editorial: Overreach: Supreme Court should weigh in on EPA power

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was back on the case last week as he led a 19-state coalition in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop an appeals court ruling that would give the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to “decarbonize virtually any sector of the economy,” as Morrisey’s office put it.

This fight is similar to one Morrisey and his colleagues have won once before, when they fought overreach by President Barack Obama’s EPA.

“This wildly expansive power to regulate factories, hospitals and even homes has tremendous costs and consequences for all Americans, in particular West Virginia’s coal miners, pipeliners, natural gas producers and utility workers as well as the countless others who rely upon their success,” Morrisey said. “If EPA lacks such expansive authority, as we argue, the Supreme Court should make that clear now. Any further delay will impose costs the energy sector can never recoup and force states to sink even more years and resources into an enterprise that is – at best – legally uncertain.”

The coalition’s legal arguments are solid, and surely the Supreme Court will rule in its favor. But there is an important reason it must do so quickly. Time is not on the side of West Virginia and the other states involved. Movement by the EPA and the rest of President Joe Biden’s administration to move away from fossil fuels is too quick to minimize harm to the workers, families and communities who will be hurt, if it does not encounter a speed bump or two.

Yes, our states’ and nation’s economies must transition and diversify. That will happen, but it must happen within a legal, constitutional framework that is not artificially accelerated to the point that it sacrifices the humans living on the planet we ALL want to preserve.

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Times West Virginian. April 30, 2021.

Editorial: Will Justice’s cash incentive work?

At first glance, Gov. Jim Justice’s plan to dole out $100 U.S. Savings Bonds to West Virginians ages 16-35 for getting a COVID-19 vaccination sounds ludicrous.

However, until we see how this truly plays out, Justice’s plan could be something we’ll all be applauding in weeks to come.

While Justice’s plan may have caused a few krinkled brows, his plan is not as laughable as what’s going on in other states.

For example, the Greenhouse marijuana dispensary in Walled Lake, Michigan, is offering free marijuana to anyone over age 21 with a marijuana card who gets a COVID-19 vaccine.

The City of Detroit is offering $50 to people who give others a ride to vaccination sites. And other locales are using free beer as an incentive to get the vaccination.

Regardless of how this gets done, Justice said Tuesday, there are some 588,000 more West Virginians who need to step up and get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Click off all of the COVID misinformation channels, take a deep breath and follow the science.

Think of the risk of the COVID-19 vaccination this way.

It’s riskier to get in your vehicle and drive every day than it is to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 36,096 Americans died in automobile crashes in 2019, a year that actually saw fatalities drop over previous years.

Meanwhile, the risk of getting a COVID-19 vaccination could be a fever or symptoms that mimic those of COVID itself.

The governor made a good point this week while trying to implore West Virginians to get vaccinations.

“West Virginians from 16 to 35 years of age are transmitting this thing faster than anyone,” Justice said. “How many people are we going to have to put in body bags? How many people are going to have to die?

“It could very well save your life or a loved one’s life, and we’ll send you a savings bond on top of that.”

On Wednesday, a day after he made his first announcement about the savings bonds enticement, Justice said he would make the incentive retroactive to every West Virginian ages 16-35 who have already gotten their shots.

He said the incentive will be paid for using the state’s first CARES Act funding allotment.

According to update data from the state, there are 1.47 million West Virginians who are currently eligible for the vaccination. Justice’s goal is to get more than 70% of West Virginia’s eligible population vaccinated.

In making his plea Wednesday, Justice said he wasn’t asking West Virginia’s younger population to go fight in a war, but to do something that may be life-saving.

“I’m asking you to do something that could very well save your life, or save the life of your mom, your dad, your grandparents, and all your loved ones,” he said.

We urge everyone who hasn’t done so yet to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

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