Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Intelligencer on keeping pets warm during the winter weather:
Our recent bouts of wintry weather serve as a good reminder to pet owners that freezing temperatures and icy conditions can be hazardous to cats and dogs.
So it’s important that pets stay indoors as much as possible during severe weather. Never leave animals out in freezing temperatures. In addition to being very dangerous, it is cruel. Don’t let dogs stay outside any longer than necessary, and protect smaller or short-haired pets with sweaters or coverings to keep them warm.
Remember, too, to keep the fur that’s between a pet’s toes trimmed to keep ice from accumulating there.
The winter months also pose a hazard due to poisonous products used to keep things from freezing, such as antifreeze, which is an extremely toxic substance. What makes antifreeze even more of a threat is that it tastes sweet to cats and dogs, but it only takes a small amount to kill them.
Given the cold and snowy winter weather, be responsible and take care of your pets.
The Bluefield Daily Telegraph on a proposed bill aimed at eliminating “food deserts":
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are once again co-sponsoring a bill in Washington that seeks to address the problem of so-called “food deserts” where low-income residents living in rural areas have limited access to nutritious food.
As expected, the pandemic has made it more difficult for some families to seek out and afford healthy foods, particularly for those living in more rural parts of West Virginia and Virginia. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food deserts are defined as areas without grocery stores within one or more miles in urban regions, and ten or more miles in rural regions.
Warner and Capito last week joined U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan and U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., in re-introducing the Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act. The legislation aims to expand access to affordable and nutritious food in areas designated as “food deserts” by the USDA.
“Many Americans living in rural communities—including those in West Virginia—have difficulty accessing fresh and nutritious foods,” Capito said. “I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation, which will go a long way in helping to improve access to groceries and healthy foods across West Virginia and make it easier for businesses and non-profit organizations to serve our rural communities.”
“Today, too many Americans lack access to fresh nutritious and healthy foods,” Warner added. “Unfortunately, that reality has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, which has made it even more difficult for working families to seek out and afford healthy foods.”
The proposed legislation would grant tax credits to food providers who service low-access communities and attain a “Special Access Food Provider” (SAFP) certification through the Treasury Department. Incentives would be awarded based on the following structure:
- New store construction – Companies that construct new grocery stores in a food desert will receive a onetime 15 percent tax credit after receiving certification.
- Retrofitting existing structures – Companies that make retrofits to an existing store’s healthy food sections can receive a onetime 10 percent tax credit after the repairs certify the store as an SAFP.
- Food banks – Certified food banks that build new (permanent) structures in food deserts will be eligible to receive a onetime grant for 15 percent of their construction costs.
The intent of the Healthy Food Access for All Americans legislation is good, particularly in light of the struggles area families have faced since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year. However, we also maintain that the wording of the federal legislation is nevertheless misleading.
We aren’t living in a food desert. In fact, most families in our region do have access to a grocery store. And there are a number of grocery stores locally that provide access to healthy and nutritious foods. Yes, some families may have to travel a few extra miles to reach those stores, but we hardly think calling the Southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia region a “food desert” is an appropriate description.
Still, if the legislation can improve access to healthy food for area families during this ongoing pandemic, we won’t argue against it. But we would once again implore our lawmakers in Washington to exercise restraint when it comes to portraying our region in a light that may not necessarily be positive.
The Register-Herald on Gov. Jim Justice's comments on the power outages in Texas:
At the tail end of his pandemic press briefing on Friday, Gov. Jim Justice broke stride and jumped into a terribly misinformed rant about what caused millions of Texans to go without power, heat and running water when a major winter storm out of the Arctic traveled south into the Lone Star State and took up residence.
Maybe our coal baron governor did so intentionally. Perhaps he had been watching too much Fox News. Either way, he was all dressed up to peddle a lie being shared by conservative commentators and politicians: Wind turbines were to blame for the state’s electrical grid being overwhelmed and shut down, the governor and others were saying, bringing misery to millions.
“It seems pretty clear that a reckless reliance on wind mills is the cause of this disaster,” said the equally uninformed Tucker Carlson on his show this past Monday. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, too, scapegoated wind power as the cause of the crisis on Tuesday – only forced to walk back his made-up story when questioned by the persistent and pesky press.
Regardless, there was our governor, days later on Friday, spreading the same false information. The problem in Texas, the governor said, was because the state “depended on wind mills.”
Here’s the thing: The governor knows better.
For the record, every last type of power plant in Texas – be it powered by coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar or wind – was nicked by ice and freezing temperatures. But it was the state’s top source of electricity, natural gas, that failed most profoundly. Yes, as stated, wind turbines froze and stopped working – and were responsible for a grand total of 13 percent of the electricity lost, according to the state’s nonprofit grid operator.
The underlying problem that was not publicly addressed?
Even after a major report said, after a similar weather event and obvious outcome a decade ago, that Texas officials and energy titans did not prepare for the inevitable, it did not weatherize its electric grid and the various sources that feed into it because, well, that would cut into profits.
Besides, it was just a freak storm, right? Wouldn’t happen all that often.
The effects of this storm were severe and, with climate change upon us, these kinds of extreme weather events will continue to come at us at more regular intervals. They already are. With this particular storm, some of the coldest temperatures in 30 years led to cascading issues with electricity demand and energy supplies. All energy sources failed because, to one degree or another, power operators did not wrap their systems in a defensive, protective strategy.
As such, more than 4.2 million customers were without power on Tuesday. As the outages dragged on, mutual aid groups and relief organizations stepped in to feed, clothe and house vulnerable residents. But, still, experts say the death toll is likely to grow and that it could be weeks or months before the true personal magnitude of the storm is known.
And now, days later, Gov. Abbott is singing a different tune. Winterize, he says. That’s the message he sent to power companies and lawmakers on Thursday – a full day ahead of our own governor’s diatribe – when he called for a law and funding to better prepare the state’s essential power infrastructure for the kind of extreme winter weather that created multiple crises this week.
Energy experts said that in some cases, retrofitting plants to withstand cold could be extremely difficult and expensive. Many of those plants already skimped on such upgrades due to the infrequency of prolonged and widespread subfreezing temperatures in the state.
But the National Weather Service reported that 150 million Americans were under various winter storm warnings this past week, with the heaviest impact on regions of the country historically unprepared for the freezing temperatures.
The problem we have is obvious. The planet is heating up and, because of that, our climate and ecosystem and all that contributes to environmental health and human well-being is at risk. To have political and civic leadership that is resistant to change, more comfortably telling tall tales, is not fit to have a say or to attend to the necessary work ahead.
What the country needs, other than a healthy dose of truth telling, is major investments in infrastructure and scientific remedies to climate change.
This will not be easy nor will it be cheap.
The first step forward is telling the truth.
The governor needs to get comfortable in that suit of clothes.