Inside West Virginia’s Struggle To Break Its Coal Addiction
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Inside West Virginia’s Struggle To Break Its Coal Addiction

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Inside West Virginia’s Battle To Break Its Coal Addiction | ThinkProgress

Inside West Virginia’s Battle To Break Its Coal Addiction | ThinkProgress

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Inside West Virginia’s Struggle To Break Its Coal Addiction Inside West Virginia’s Struggle To Break Its Coal Addiction Document Transcript

  • Inside West Virginia’s Struggle To Break Its Coal Addiction Inside West Virginia’s Battle To Break Its Coal Addiction | ThinkProgress Inside West Virginia"s Battle To Break Its Coal Addiction By Katie Valentine along with Kiley Kroh onMarch 11, 2014 with 11:16 am 322Share This 67Tweet This Share this: "Inside West Virginia"s Find It Hard To Break Its Coal Addiction" Share: WEST VIRGINIA -- In the event that there's one thing January's enormous chemical spill throughout West Virginia taught Jeremy Richardson, it's this: regardless involving what his energy bill says every month, coal is actually "not cheap." "This was a chemical used to procedure coal," said Richardson, senior energy analyst as well as West Virginia specialist in the Union involving Involved Scientists. "It truly points towards the must not need just about all of our own economic exercise reliant on just one as well as two things." The spill that will contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians features reignited debate in the state, not just over the need for stricter chemical as well as coal sector regulations yet how a state's reliance upon these similar webpage industries is affecting its residents as well as environment. "People's wellness here may be sacrificed so that the entire world -- not merely your U.S., nevertheless the planet -- may flip on lights," said Maria Gunnoe, any neighborhood organizer within Boone County. "And it simply doesn't help make sense." Diversifying the particular state's economy may be the concentrate of Mike Manypenny, a new person in the state house regarding Delegates, for years -- so very long he can't even remember the amount of energy bills he's launched into the state legislature. Growing renewable power along with power efficiency, places of emphasis pertaining to Manypenny, aren't priorities for a lot of lawmakers inside West Virginia, he said; remaining on great terms with almost all the coal market is. "People about here tend to be consequently scared of losing the particular coal market simply because with the fictitious "war in coal" that they is likely to do anything to make an effort to give coal an edge, or the market an edge," he said. But the decline involving coal inside Central Appalachia is impossible for you to ignore, along with while transitioning its concentrate away in the coal business might always be what West Virginia needs to do for you to survive, changing your economy and also culture of your state lengthy influenced by coal -- with many of its leaders even now loyal to the coal business -- has verified being an uphill battle. People around here are usually consequently scared of losing your coal industry because with the fictitious "war upon coal" they will do anything to make an effort to give coal an edge. "Simply put, we'd like to put a brand new economy inside place," said David Graham, who's operating for your West Virginia Residence of Delegates in coal-dependent Logan County. "We've known that will we'd like to be centered on a new transition for a lot of years, as well as we simply haven"t made the correct steps to do that. Consequently many coal communities here in the state are suffering simply because involving it." Writing on The Wall In West Virginia, coal production may be synonymous with economic health for over a century. West Virginia's coal built America; "it fired its steel mills, lit its homes, along with provided the cheap power to create your wealthiest nation within the world," National Journal wrote inside October. As lately as 1997, coal accounted for 52.8 percent with the electricity generated in the U.S. But in latest decades, the actual Central Appalachian coal sector continues to always be able to be in the significant decline. Within 2008, coal production in the region fell in order to 235 million tons, down 20 percent through 1997?s peak regional production. Kentucky and also West Virginia have lost 38,000 coal work since 1983. A crucial trigger regarding the task loss will end up being the growing automation in the coal industry -- fewer miners are essential to complete exactly the same work. Add that to the proven fact that a handful of of Appalachia's coal basins are operating out, along with which competition through cheaper coal out west is actually fierce, and
  • also annual production could still fall an additional 46 percent simply by 2020. And as natural gas booms inside the U.S., coal's domination is actually shrinking throughout the country. According into a latest report from the Union associated with Worried Scientists, approximately 17 percent in the 347 gigawatts of coal power within the United States Regarding America is no more competitive using natural gas. A Difficult Path for Something However Coal Seeing coal's downward trend features spurred a small but growing movement for you to invest in West Virginia's renewable power resources -- not necessarily as becoming a replacement for coal, yet like a viable supplement for the state's energy scheme plus an opportunity to generate jobs throughout new sectors. John Christensen, a solar sector advocate who lobbies the West Virginia government on behalf of Mountain View Solar, said that the state's unfriendly policies toward solar power particularly create carrying out enterprise throughout West Virginia challenging regarding Mountain View, the business located in Berkeley Springs. The Particular key obstacle standing inside the way of solar development is often that West Virginia will no longer features incentives with regard to solar. Generally there employed to become a new $2,000 tax credit for new solar projects, but the state legislature would away with it in the last legislative session. Christensen declared designed a massive difference in how Mountain View did business. "You had folks who would normally not end up being interested [in solar] since in the expense to become able to drawing within all these individuals who needed a tax credit score and wished to do one thing regarding their carbon footprint," Christensen said, sitting in certainly 1 of Mountain View's projects, any solar array and electric vehicle charging station throughout Charles Town. "So it had been the actual best associated with all possible worlds and, in the time, ended up being certainly 1 of the very best incentives on the East Coast." Now, he said, Mountain View Solar will be going for a lot more jobs from state simply because without the actual incentives, interest in solar within West Virginia is actually down. "We were built with a large amount of local jobs throughout March, April, may ... since then it"s slowed down," he said. "We send our crews wherever the actual work are. Proper now we"re within North Carolina and Virginia." We send our crews wherever the jobs are. right now we"re inside North Carolina and Virginia. Another impediment is the fact that West Virgnia's Renewable Portfolio standard (RPS), the measure in which typically takes a specific portion with the state's energy mix come from renewable sources, provides zero actual specifications regarding renewable energy. Worse, the actual standard consists of coal, propane as well as tire-derived fuels as renewable power resources. Jeff Herholdt, director of West Virginia's Division associated with Energy, stated he thinks West Virginia is one of just three states that will consist of coal in their RPS. the state can supply tax credits regarding industrial scale wind energy, a power supply Herholdt stated makes up regarding 2 % of the energy West Virginia generates (96 percent can be generated through coal, as well as regarding 2 % by hydroelectric). The Renewable Portfolio Regular will be a big section of why solar isn't succeeding in the state. a recent report via West Virginia consider tank Downstream Strategies advised which a certain carve-out regarding solar power become extra towards the state's RPS, as well as providing tax incentives regarding West Virginians
  • which use solar power. But certainly 1 of the actual Division involving Energy's primary objectives is actually ensuring coal survives, Herholdt mentioned with a West Virginia conference inside December. the state's five-year program pledges in order to "advocate the significance of retaining coal-powered electric generation to guarantee the continuation of cost-effective electricity to residential, commercial, and also industrial users," and also Herholdt informed your Charleston Gazette the final thing he wants it to do is actually decrease coal generation in the state. He stated the particular aim of the five-year plan wasn't to incentivize renewables, however which it had been excellent publicity for that state to get at least some type of renewable portfolio standard. "We're the simply real state that has an alternative portfolio standard that will could be met with one hundred % coal," Herholdt said. "There's any lot of paranoia out there. Coal is not evil. Coal is a tremendous resource." Evan Hansen, principal together with Downstream Strategies, stated your state's RPS needs for you to alter significantly if West Virginia is to possess a future that features renewables. The Actual present RPS features allowed the state in order to depend on current alternative energy projects, even tasks from have a new peek at this site out of state. "It"s carried out absolutely absolutely absolutely nothing to market the use of renewables," he said. "Not one renewable energy project may be built to fulfill those requirements ... It was a completely hollow bill." Del. Mannypenny said that even though he thought the particular RPS had been ineffective, he voted because of it since it was a lot better than no regular with all. looking forward, Manypenny can be doubtful that the Tomblin administration will consider the essential actions for you to strengthen the particular state's clean energy requirements. Within his January State with the State address, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin avoided mentioning climate change or perhaps renewable energy, and also avoided showing assistance for the proposed future Fund, which may reserve a percentage regarding tax bucks from the gas boom regarding improving education, infrastructure along with economic development. West Virginia doesn't have a gubernatorial race subsequent year, yet coal is actually shaping up to become any major topic of discussion in the Senate race for the seat involving retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller. "Let me get this to distinct proper here, correct now, I will fight any Republican or even virtually any Democrat -- such as President Barack Obama -- that tries to kill our energy jobs, whether they're coal, all-natural gas, wind as well as water," Democratic candidate Natalie Tennant said throughout September. Bridging Your Cultural Divide Imagining a way more diverse as well as sustainable long term will be not only with regards to rearranging renewable power standards and also convincing state legislators to give more clean energy-friendly laws, however. in West Virginia, coal mining is a means of life. Regarding many families, that way of every day lifestyle is disappearing, and they'd rather listen to concerning methods to bring it back compared to regarding alternatives.
  • "It's culture," Jeremy Richardson, who comes from a household associated with coal miners along with now works in the Union regarding concerned Scientists, said. "My brother works within the mines today. Attempting to prevent coal since of climate adjust "- which usually everybody knows we've to complete this "- it would be like a person coming into my office and becoming like, 'Look Jeremy, the particular proven fact that you"re any scientist can be destroying your planet along with you've to do something different now.'" It's furthermore economics. If they've been employed by numerous years, coal miners will make around $90,000 any year, and also finding work that can match that right off the bat in renewable energy isn't easy. "My dad graduated high school along with went for the coal mines," Michelle Harless, any secondary school guidance counselor inside Martin County, KY, the region regarding Appalachia in which also is struggling using the decline of coal as well as the need to diversify, informed NPR. "He can always be a maintenance supervisor in West Virginia, as well as I'll by zero means make as much cash because he does." But changing the attitudes in the state's leaders can help alter the perspectives associated with West Virginians, Hansen said. Any time the state power plan had been finalized, he said, the Department of Power presented any pessimistic look at renewables and an optimistic view of standard fuels throughout conferences across the state. Which general attitude -- along with all the voting records as well as "war about coal" rhetoric of the state's politicians -- trickles down towards the community. "I consider it simply changed people"s perceptions because those in government are basically declaring it"s not practical to pursue renewables," Hansen explained. "One of the causes it"s therefore impractical here is thanks to the fact that these identical people aren"t pushing policies to market them." House regarding Delegates candidate David Graham agrees. "As far as being responsible for your lack of diversification inside our state, you really can look absolutely no further when compared with our state leaders," Graham said. "I would claim that a lot of people which understand government in any way would possibly maintain agreement together with that." Hansen said he thinks the particular state's leaders need to start to tackle the particular issue associated with climate change, and also coal's role inside it, as opposed to fighting against it. Throughout June, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) -- a new lawmaker whose 2nd as well as third greatest marketing campaign contributors would be the mining as well as electric utility sector -- referred to become able to as President Obama's climate alter plan a "war about America," and also Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin offers produced comparable remarks with regards to EPA regulations. A Wake-Up Call But despite the actual rhetoric and also recent downturn with the coal economy, a few West Virginians tend to be getting climate change seriously,said Dan Conant, founder associated with West Virginia consulting firm Solar Holler. Regarding several churches especially, he had been quoted saying the worth of creation treatment -- a new Biblical groundwork regarding environmental protection -- can help make it hard to ignore this sort of main environmental threat. "More West Virginians are generally concerned with climate change and environmental protection compared in order to the coal companies could have you believe," Conant said. "There's truly a complete lot a lot more support out there, even when it"s not necessarily as
  • vocal." And at least according to 1 poll, several West Virginia residents are usually beginning to view the particular coal industry and also its ties to the state government inside a new light next January's chemical spill. Any February poll launched by the Sierra Club found out that 61 percent associated with West Virginians surveyed thought that lobbyists get "too a lot chance to stop common-sense protections as well as regulations" inside the state, as well as 58 percent thought that the state's lawmakers required to prevent "letting coal sector lobbyists call the actual shots." Inside addition, 40 percent involving respondents mentioned the particular coal sector bears "a lot or even some" of duty for the spill, and also 65 percent said the particular coal business bears a complete lot as well as a few duty for that general contamination of West Virginia"s air and also water. Graham declared although people within Logan County are generally "extremely pro-coal," they understand the county wants to diversify. Today the coal sector is at decline, Graham says individuals regarding Logan County are viewing the repercussions of the state's one-track economy. A New 2013 poll from the Union associated with Involved Scientists located "overwhelming support" for using taxes via coal mining and also propane drilling to aid infrastructure and economic development projects inside West Virginia, the scenario in which supporters in the state's proposed future Fund hope will grow for you to be reality. The Particular poll furthermore found out that 50 percent of respondents supported raising taxes about the coal industry, whilst only 19 percent opposed. Once A Person Burn Up It, It's Gone As coal wanes inside West Virginia and renewables struggle to make an appearance, gas is getting off. A Lot involving hawaii sits atop your Marcellus Shale formation, house to an estimated 500 trillion cubic feet associated with all-natural gas. Your natural gas boom has many inside the state excited concerning the prospect regarding West Virginia continuing its role as getting a lead power producing state, nevertheless others be concerned it's likely to lead to the exact same "boom and bust" scenario they might be experiencing with coal. Organic gas isn't a new one-stop solution, they argue -- it's much more reason for that state to diversify. "In West Virginia's case throughout particular, there"s any significant concern concerning squandering the particular resource like we would coal," Richardson said. "That's a critical piece pertaining to West Virginia, preparing for that subsequent bust. Simply Because it'll bust once again -- it"s just geology. As Quickly As you burn up it, it"s gone." Over the particular weekend, the West Virginia state legislature took a significant step towards ensuring your next "bust" doesn't happen. The Actual newly-passed Long Term Fund will put aside a portion associated with severance tax dollars through oil and fuel in which can end up being used regarding improving education, infrastructure as well as economic development. Any significant part of the actual initiative is accepting which coal can be declining along with in which their state wants to become responsible using its subsequent major energy frontier. "You can easily have got almost all in the 'Stand up pertaining to Steels' and also 'Wars upon Coal' which you want, yet they aren't coming back," State Senate President as well as longtime Long Term Fund advocate Jeff Kessler
  • stated at a forum inside September. "I don't consider that's realistic." However, Ted Boettner, executive director in the West Virginia Middle on budget and also Policy, cautioned the fund may not go in order to whichever deposits with regard to a lengthy period unless changes are generally made quickly. "While creating the actual future Fund in statute would always be a giant step forward for you to changing the cost-effective script about the state's source curse," he said, "the legislature must now act to make particular that it receives adequate income to construct long-term assets which will help it to diversify its economy as well as protect its economic future." Otherwise, Boettner said, history could repeat itself throughout West Virginia and the natural gas boom could quickly become an additional painful bust. "It just generates very uneven, unsustainable economic development," he said. "A great offer of this crowds out various other organizations plus it results in the vicious loop of men as well as women certainly not wanting to obtain a higher education." The issue involving the method to avoid the vicious cycle, Boettner explains, leads us back in order to diversification. And Also in which does not really imply just investing a lot more in renewable power yet buying projects that will redevelop abandoned mines -- work which former coal miners possess the abilities to do -- and also investing in tourism, agroforestry, and additionally the burgeoning local food movement. Your state's rugged beauty must entice a whole lot more people with regard to hiking along with camping, and the state has previously established achievement stories within the past; your Hatfield-McCoy ATV trail, regarding example, brings folks in to the state from throughout the East Coast. Across Your Border, Any different Tune In neighboring Kentucky, a state grappling with the decline of Central Appalachian coal and furthermore the ripple effects it's getting throughout the economy, the particular diversification conversation has a heightened a feeling of urgency. Lacking your natural gas sources West Virginia possesses, Kentucky comes face-to-face with almost all the have to alter directions as well as Gov. Steve Beshear's recent State in the Commonwealth address struck any distinct tone compared in order to the rhetoric coming from its neighbor. "As any outcome of our own efforts each this past year as well as over the last 6 years, we are shrugging off an historic reputation for backwardness as well as instead are generally writing a fresh narrative founded about adjust as well
  • as innovation," Beshear said. And in January, an eight-county region regarding southeastern Kentucky, any region hit specially hard through the loss associated with coal work opportunities and also chronic poverty, ended up being chosen for your Obama administration's Guarantee Zone program, made to give priority funding regarding anti-poverty initiatives. In West Virginia, Ted Boettner and other medication is clear in which there isn't 1 simple solution to replace coal and almost all sorts of regarding the economical rewards which have accompanied its extraction with regard to decades. but it's furthermore apparent in which doing not even try to prepare the state and its residents for that decline of their particular crucial business is really a short-sighted along with foolhardy approach. "What I usually keep coming back for you to is, can we desire a hard landing or a soft landing?" Boettner said. "Let's perform towards which soft landing. It's going to be a landing, nevertheless everything depends upon how we"re going to fall." Andrew Breiner contributed the particular graphics to become able to this piece. Tags: CoalRenewable EnergyWest Virginia