WV candidates take different stances on energy - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV candidates take different stances on energy

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Lawmakers running for election and re-election have been fighting over energy policies since filing pre-candidacy paperwork.

If there is one thing all West Virginia politicians can usually agree on, it's that coal creates jobs and, literally, “keeps the lights on.”

In one early television ad, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant “shut” the lights off to the White House. Tennant is running against U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to replace U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. West Virginia has never been represented by a woman in the U.S. Senate.

Capito and Tennant have been neck-and-neck campaigning for the race, but coal and energy positions don't separate the two candidates. Both have been clear about their apparent support to keep energy jobs in the state.

However, one political write-in candidate for the First Congressional District believes things such as natural gas and ethane cracker plants could potentially be the saving grace for West Virginia.

Charles A. Wood, scientist, educator and author, said he is running as a write-in candidate against incumbent U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.

Wood said he points out something few other West Virginia politicians would say: “coal provides only 3 (percent) of jobs in the state, but politicians here spend nearly 100 (percent) of their time defending it.”

Wood said coal jobs will continue to decline due to competition from natural gas and cheaper coal from Wyoming.

In a news release, Wood said “mine owners have used technology to reduce the number of coal mining jobs for decades. And in Australia there are now autonomous mines that require no miners, and thus no pensions, black lung lawsuits and strikes.”

Wood claims that, historically, there has been a war on coal miners, rather than a war on coal. Finally, he asks that if coal is an engine of prosperity, why is West Virginia one of the poorest states in the country?

“It is time to invest in people and a variety of types of jobs for them, instead of simply protecting the profits of coal mine owners,” he said in a news release.

Tennant, is also promoting natural gas in the Mountain State while she campaigns. She said the industry, while creating jobs, provides increased revenue for communities and local and state governments.

Responsible development of the Marcellus Shale will allow West Virginia to create jobs, and, according to Tennant, “we can do that while also protecting our water — as well as our roads, farmland and communities,” she said in her energy plan. “To ensure companies are hiring West Virginia workers for West Virginia work, we must have partnerships and programs in place to properly train our workers for jobs the Marcellus development will provide.

“It's not enough to extract West Virginia natural gas and ship it somewhere else. We should be using West Virginia resources right here in West Virginia.”

Tennant said the state must commit to establish cracker plants, which process ethane.

“Developing cracker plants would have a multibillion-dollar impact on our state's economy. It is encouraging news that one cracker plant is being planned in Wood County, but we must establish more,” Tennant said. “Cracker plants are key to securing West Virginia's energy future and revitalizing our chemical industry.”

Capito has a similar stance on energy.

“Thanks to our country's abundant reserves of coal, natural gas and oil, America can become energy independent and rid ourselves of our dependence on imports from volatile parts of the world — but only if we pass policies that allow us to maximize our resources here at home,” Capito said in her policy. “Making use of our energy resources in West Virginia and across America will provide good jobs for our citizens, enhance our national security, and make our nation less vulnerable to sharp price fluctuations that occur due to our reliance on foreign energy sources.”

McKinley says the “War on Coal” must stop.

On his website, McKinley explains his idea for a comprehensive energy plan for the country.

“Coal and other energy sources provide tens of thousands of West Virginia jobs, and Rep. McKinley considers them our state's lifeblood,” his website said. “He is using his Energy and Commerce Committee assignment to curb the EPA's over-regulation, which is stifling the energy industry and preventing the creation of more jobs.

“In addition to coal, natural gas and oil are very important to the economy of West Virginia and this country. Exploration and aggressive drilling for these two fuels should be permitted without further delay. Rep. McKinley believes we should also encourage the use of wind, water and solar as alternatives to fossil fuels. Additionally, he supports nuclear power as a complement to meet our growing energy demands.

“Rep. McKinley believes in market-based solutions to providing America's energy needs. Protecting American jobs should be just as important as protecting the environment.”

A state senator until next January, Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, is up against U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., for the seat in the state's Third Congressional District.

While visiting West Virginia Aug. 19, Mitt Romney endorsed fellow Republicans Capito, Jenkins and Alex Mooney — running in the Second Congressional District.

Jenkins has said West Virginia's economy and coal families are in “full crisis” mode. Referring to layoffs and companies issuing WARN Notices, Jenkins said it makes his “blood boil to know that Nick Rahall voted repeatedly for these very regulations the company cites in its WARN Notice, helping elect the president whose EPA is implementing those jobs, and recently attributed the lack of coal jobs to miners who he alleged can't pass a drug test.”

Rahall, in the past, has challenged the EPA, saying it likes “to cultivate the impression that science and pragmatism govern the day and that is not swayed by ideology.”

Mooney, a Republican, has faced a lot of criticism for relocating from Maryland to Jefferson County in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle only months before filing for office. His opponent, Nick Casey, is the former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party.

Casey said he will fight for “common-sense regulations that businesses can operate under and workers can make careers out of to provide for their families.”

Mooney said on his website he would be fighting against President Barack Obama and EPA regulations, but during his time as a Maryland state senator, Mooney said he was for energy conservation and new technology.

Running as an Independent candidate for West Virginia's Second Congressional District, Ed Rabel said the fracking boom in the state has increased local property tax revenues but otherwise failed to spur economic growth.

Rabel's plan, should he win, would be to: Require drilling companies to fully disclose the chemicals they are putting into the ground and into landfills; conduct congressional hearings into how royalty payments are calculated and, specifically, how companies determine operating costs that they deduct from those payments; and encourage states to empower municipalities and counties to set their own policies on fracking, including bans, if that is what residents prefer.

Rabel, according to his website, also believes people will not invest in West Virginia for fear of the value of their investment where there is a “pervasive disregard for the environment.”

“For too long we in West Virginia have grossly undervalued the economic price that we pay by allowing the coal and natural gas industries almost unfettered and largely unregulated access to our land and resources,” Rabel says on his website. “If we're to achieve sustained and permanent economic growth, West Virginia must defend its environmental integrity.”