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Wheeling News-Register - May 18, 2011

WEIRTON - Local residents were able to hear about some of the bills currently before Congress straight from one of the individuals elected to represent them in Washington, D.C.

Congressman David McKinley held a town hall meeting in Weirton's Millsop Community Center on Tuesday, hoping to discuss some of the legislation making its way through the halls of the U.S. Capitol, as well as to hear some of the residents' concerns.

 The Republican has hosted two previous town hall meetings within the 1st District. There also have been three telephone town halls, one of which the congressman said included 14,000 participants.

He said many issues have been brought up during those events, but he feels they all end up pointing back to one thing.

"It's all about jobs," McKinley said. "You can call it anything, it's all about jobs."

Whether people are talking about energy, the federal budget, taxes, regulations, federal spending or health care, McKinley said it all will affect jobs in some way.

In explaining the nation's deficit, he said he finds it helpful to compare the federal budget with that of a regular family. Instead of looking at the large numbers Congress deals with, he suggested thinking about bringing in $21,000 in revenue each year but having $37,000 in expenses. There is the option of using a credit card to cover the gap, he said of his comparison, but that has its own drawbacks.

"That card has a $140,000 debt on it, and your bank is in China," he said.

The U.S., he said, is borrowing $4.3 billion a day to help meet its expenses.

McKinley said one of the things he wants to do while in Congress is to find ways to erase uncertainties to improve the economy, and that includes finding better ways to reform health care and to get a better hold on the actions of government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency. He said federal regulations, rising costs and other issues create uncertainties, which prevent businesses from wanting to make an investment.

"When businesses aren't certain what's going to happen, they pull back," McKinley said.

McKinley noted that has been a big problem in West Virginia, as legislation such as the defeated "cap and trade" bill and increased regulations from the EPA have convinced coal and other industries not to invest in the state and help to create jobs. Meanwhile, nations without those regulations are seeing job creation and growth all the time.

Beckley Register Herald - January 12, 2010

CHARLESTON — A southern West Virginia lawmaker feels the ultimate goal of the Environmental Protection Agency is to wipe out the entire coal industry by initially outlawing the mountaintop removal practice via uncompromising regulation.

“It’s an attack on the whole industry,” Delegate Steve Kominar, D-Mingo, said in Monday’s interims session.

His criticism of the federal agency came after lawmakers heard updates on improving brownfields in a meeting of the Joint Commission on Economic Development.
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Kominar and Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, zeroed in on the EPA’s insistence that mined-out mountains be restored to natural contours, with mountains even higher than the natural ones before coal was extracted, rather than be used to develop schools, golf courses, hospitals and the like, as has been accomplished at old mine sites.

“Fifty years from now, we’ll look back and say that (original contour restoration) was the worst thing we ever did in southern West Virginia,” Stollings told the commission.

Afterward, Kominar went further, portraying the EPA and environmentalists alike as forces with closed minds, refusing to look at the facts, in their resolve to outlaw coal production.

“First of all, they don’t want mountaintop removal — period,” Kominar, D-Mingo, said.

“What people don’t understand, if they’re successful — and I’m talking about a conglomerate of people — in stopping mountaintop removal, the next thing they’ll stop is traditional strip mining. And the third thing will be our underground mines.”

If the mining industry is in error, point it out, Kominar challenged.

“Let’s not base this on emotions,” the delegate said.

“Let’s base this on scientific facts. If we’re doing something wrong in the mining industry, give us the opportunity to correct it. But they can’t show us those numbers or those figures. It’s a Catch-22.”

A brownfield is an old site of a gasoline station, chemical plant or other erstwhile industrial activity that raises environmental issues.

Appearing before the panel were George Carico and Patrick Kirby, directors of the Southern and Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, respectively, based at West Virginia and Marshall universities.

Each center has functioned since 2005 and works with local governments to help them turn used sites into viable new entities. In its brief history, the program has leveraged $4 million from the EPA for such assistance, but actually has amassed a budget that is $2 million larger with various grants.

Illustrating how the center works, Carico told of efforts to help the Fayette County town of Ansted find use for the old Ansted High School.

The town needs a central location to house town offices, since they now are scattered about, but there also exist needs for a community center to hold weddings and other family outings, and a location for a small business, Carico said.

As for the latter, he noted, one man is interested in leasing a classroom to run an Internet-based business.

Kirby explained that grants given by the Benedum Foundation come into play, typically $5,000 outlays to help communities get some mileage out of an old gasoline station or industrial complex.

“I know $5,000 doesn’t sound like much, but that puts a lot of momentum for a project,” Kirby said.

Carico said the centers have made some measured progress in the five years they have worked in the local communities.

“West Virginia is way behind when it comes to brownfields cleanup,” he told the commission.

“But we’re catching up.”

 

Charleston Gazette - January 12, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's leading lawmakers said Tuesday that protecting the coal industry will be their priority during this year's regular legislative session, which starts Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, said the Obama administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are taking a "harsh stand" against coal. 

"They have a whole new attitude about the coal industry," Chafin said Tuesday during the West Virginia Chamber's 2010 Legislative Issues & Outlook Conference in Charleston. "We just have to stand united."

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House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, suggested the Legislature establish a select committee to react to federal legislation that affects the coal and energy industry in West Virginia.

"We need to be prepared to address those impacts on the state level," Armstead said. "We are all concerned about the future of coal."

The legislative leaders said the state relies on the coal industry for jobs and coal severance taxes.

"We absolutely have to have that revenue," said House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton. "If we don't have that revenue, we'll be in a world of hurt in West Virginia. This is not a partisan issue. It's a West Virginia issue."

Senate Minority Whip Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, said the state must continue to invest in clean-coal technologies.

"That's good for our coal industry and exports right now," Barnes said. "We're exporting a tremendous amount of coal right now."

Barnes also said the state must continue to reduce business taxes and remain "fiscally prudent" -- a recommendation embraced by other legislative leaders.

"We haven't let ourselves be pulled down into the partisan bickering we see in Washington," Boggs said. "That's not happening here. We have some differences, but at the end of the day we work closely together.

"We have taken responsible steps," Boggs added. "Tough steps. Hard steps."

Armstead noted that West Virginia lost 25,000 jobs last year. More than 67,000 people were unemployed.

"I think we need to look at bold changes to our tax structure and our regulatory structure," he said.

Chafin said the state must take a hard look at its personal income tax. Some states, such as Florida, don't require residents to pay personal income taxes.

"We want people to move to West Virginia who make money, who want to make money," he said. 

About 300 state business leaders attended Tuesday's conference at the Charleston Marriott.

On behalf of the West Virginia Coal Forum and West Virginia University’s National Research Center for Coal & Energy, we would like to extend an invitation to you to attend an energy forum to be held from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at the WVU National Research Center for Coal & Energy in Morgantown, West Virginia.  There is no fee to attend.

September 25, 2008-- On behalf of the West Virginia Coal Forum and West Virginia University’s National Research Center for Coal & Energy, we would like to extend an invitation to you to attend an energy forum to be held from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at the WVU National Research Center for Coal & Energy in Morgantown, West Virginia.  There is no fee to attend.

The purpose of this forum is to expose civic, legislative, research, and opinion leaders in West Virginia to Imagine West Virginia’s “Coal:  Energy, The Environment & West Virginia Policy Recommendations” and to facilitate discussion on coal’s role in our state and nation’s energy strategy.

Speakers include:

  • Congressman Alan Mollohan (invited)
  • UMWA President Cecil Roberts
  • WVU President Peter Magrath
  • Imagine West Virginia Board Member Pat Getty
  • WVU Vice President for Research Curt Peterson
  • NETL Director of the Strategic Center for Coal Scott Klara
  • West Virginia Division of Energy Director Jeff Herholdt
  • Senator Jay Rockefeller (taped remarks)
  • WV Coal Association Senior Vice-President Chris Hamilton
  • Secretary of WV DEP Randy Huffman

The event will include three parts, which include:

  • Comments by elected officials
  • Presentation by Imagine West Virginia outlining their study recommendations
  • Panel discussion on the Imagine West Virginia report and coal’s position in state and national energy policy.

You can learn more about Imagine West Virginia and their report at www.imaginewestvirginia.com .

Please RSVP by emailing your name and organization name to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday, October 10, 2008.  

We appreciate your consideration and hope to see you on October 15, 2008.

Parking Information

DIRECTIONS / PARKING INFORMATION

The event will be held in Assembly Rooms 101 A&B just off the main lobby in the WVU National Center for Coal & Energy Research Building, located on Evansdale Drive in Morgantown.

Parking is available for attendees.  See directions and parking instructions below:

1. From the East: Take I-68 to I-79, then go North to Exit 155 (WVU exit).
2. From the North (Pittsburgh) or South (Charleston): follow I-79 to Exit 155 (WVU exit).
3. Proceed toward WVU/Morgantown and US 19 South. (Bear right past Sheetz gas station/convenience store onto US 19 South).
4. Cross the Edith Barrill Bridge (also known as the Star City Bridge) and continue straight at the light. (CVS Pharmacy, Golden Corral will be on the right.)
5. Stay in right lane. After light, stay in this lane.
6. Go straight through the next light, staying in the same lane, and still following 19 South. (You will pass the WVU Coliseum on your right.)
7. Turn left at the next light onto Evansdale Drive to enter the Evansdale Campus.
8. When you turn onto Evansdale Drive, you will see the white Creative Arts Building on your left.
9. Continue following Evansdale Drive for one quarter mile and look for the NRCCE building on your left, the third of three buildings with dark glass and red architectural accents.
10. Continue past the NRCCE and go through the 4-way stop sign and past the WVU Greenhouse (on your right).
11. After the greenhouse is a short-term parking lot on your right. Turn right into this parking lot where an attendant will give you a parking permit for the day.

*** The attendant will be on duty from Noon until 2:30 pm. If you come before or after these hours, you will need to pickup a permit at the meeting registration table in Assembly Room 101 of the NRCCE Building.

Lawmakers, coal executives and business leaders gathered in Charleston Tuesday for the first in a series of forums aimed at the future of West Virginia coal in this state and around the world.

Imagine West Virginia put the event together  It's an independent, nonpartisan, objective group that investigates and identifies issues facing the state.  A study they conducted found West Virginia's coal supply is a viable fuel source for decades to come, but there needs to be a plan to address how to best use it.

 MetroNews - 
Charleston, Kanawha County

Lawmakers, coal executives and business leaders gathered in Charleston Tuesday for the first in a series of forums aimed at the future of West Virginia coal in this state and around the world.

Imagine West Virginia put the event together  It's an independent, nonpartisan, objective group that investigates and identifies issues facing the state.  A study they conducted found West Virginia's coal supply is a viable fuel source for decades to come, but there needs to be a plan to address how to best use it.

Governor Joe Manchin was the keynote speaker at the event held at the Charleston Embassy Suites. He told the crowd that, even though many would like to keep coal in the ground, it's going to continue to power the United States.  "I know there's some people who would say 'Let's stop it completely!'  That's not the fact of life."

Currently coal powers 50% of the country's energy needs.

Manchin says you might be surprised by those who say coal is here to stay.  "We've had scientists, economists from around the world, people that you would think would absolutely line up on the other side and be totally against mining anymore coal or using fossil fuels. At the end of the day, they say at the end of the day make no mistake, we will be using coal for the next 30-50 years. Now how do you want to use it?"

The answer, according to Manchin, is by creating clean coal technology like the coal to liquid plant to be built in Benwood. The cost of the Marshall County operation is $800 million.

Governor Manchin says it will change how we power this country and he believes there are other clean ways of using coal that have yet to be developed. "Why shouldn't our major universities be the research engines to find the technology that's going to help the world?"

Meanwhile, Manchin says even if the U.S. doesn't want to use coal, there won't be a lack of buyers. Countries like China, Russia, even Italy are lining up to purchase West Virginia coal.

From climate change to mountaintop removal, environmentalists and coal producers are usually at each other’s throats
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But can they find common ground? Is there a middle way that protects the environment, and still allows the mining and burning of coal?

That was the topic of a special forum in Charleston yesterday called “Coal: Energy, the Environment and West Virginia.”

WV Public Broadcasting

From climate change to mountaintop removal, environmentalists and coal producers are usually at each other’s throats.

But can they find common ground? Is there a middle way that protects the environment, and still allows the mining and burning of coal?

That was the topic of a special forum in Charleston yesterday called “Coal: Energy, the Environment and West Virginia.”

For the coal industry in WV, it’s the best of times, and it’s the worst of times. On one hand, coal prices are at historic highs. Developing countries like China and India are devouring coal at record rates, with no sign of stopping anytime soon.

You’d think coal officials would be deliriously happy, but they’re not. You can blame Al Gore and an Inconvenient Truth, or a massive and growing body of scientific evidence about climate change, but members of the coal industry feel like they’re under attack.

Charleston lawyer Tom Heywood laid out the challenge to participants in the coal forum.

“The challenge for West Virginia, the challenge for coal producing states and nations, is that as historically produced, coal is a dirty fuel and is regarded as a dirty fuel,” Heywood said. “And there are environmental issues associated with the production and consumption of coal.”

Heywood addressed about 100 participants at the event, sponsored by a group called The Coal Forum, which is largely supported by coal producers, and Marshall University.

Heywood served as chief of staff for former Gov. Gaston Caperton, and is part of another group called Imagine West Virginia, which issued a report earlier this year that tries to bridge the gap between coal producers and environmentalists.

Instead of a threat, he said the new emphasis on the environment could be a boon for WV and for Appalachia – if leaders can work together and invest in research and higher education.

“If you want to do energy well, in an environmentally sound fashion, go to West Virginia, go to Appalachia,” he said. “We all win in that equation. That’s our great opportunity.”

But if coal producers have to take the environment more seriously, Heywood says environmentalists have to admit the need for coal.

“The physically reality is that we cannot bridge to the future for decades if not hundreds of years without coal as part of the equation,” Heywood said. “If you accept that premise, then your choices are, how do we do coal well, how do we do coal clean, how do we capture the opportunities for coal.”

But Allan Tweddle, a consultant and member of the WV Public Energy Authority, does not accept that premise.

Clean coal depends on something called carbon sequestration – capturing the greenhouse gases created when power plants burn coal and storing them underground. Tweddle can tick off a long list of problems and shortcomings of carbon sequestration.

“Carbon sequestration is going to double the cost of coal fired power,” Tweddle said. “One of the coal presidents said it is at least 15, maybe 20 years away from being commercially viable.

“There are a myriad of legal issues that are unresolved. Who’s going to take the liability if it comes back out of the ground. And the energy it takes. I’ve heard estimates it could take 15 or 20% of the power of the power plant makes to strip out the CO2. That’s going to raise the cost of electricity,” he said.

Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of the WV Coal Association, says he’s concerned about a growing movement to reduce or abolish the use of coal.

“I’m not sure that we can really appease the individuals that want to see coal eliminated, abolished from the energy mix of this country,” Hamilton said.

“But those individuals and groups that have concerns about the environment or the impacts of mining, certainly we can be more responsive to those concerns,” Hamilton added.

Gov. Joe Manchin spoke about a new coal-to-liquids plant announced last month for Marshall County. Coal-to-liquids can produce twice as much greenhouse gases as traditional gasoline, but company officials promise to use carbon sequestration to reduce that.

Cong. Shelley Moore Capito also spoke at the forum. She is proposing more federal money for clean coal research. But Congress is deadlocked over energy policy – something Capito blames on the Democratic leadership.

“Right now, we don’t have a comprehensive bill out there,” Capito said. “We haven’t been allowed to vote on anything that I think is going to address high gasoline prices and dependence on foreign oil. And any time we do get something, it’s a fight to get anything related to coal in there.”

Of course, Capito’s Democratic opponent, Anne Barth, blames Capito and other Republicans for the lack of a comprehensive energy bill, as she says in a new campaign ad.

More forums on coal and the environment are being planned for Morgantown, Logan and other towns across the state.