While West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is focusing on West Virginia's energy past with comments like these:
More than once he lit into the Environmental Protection Agency, under constant fire from the coal industry over regulations it feels are too stringent and that are smothering production.
“This is West Virginia, where we appreciate the need for reasonable, open environmental regulations but understand the fundamental need for jobs and for low cost, reliable energy developed right here in the United States of America,” Tomblin said.
Calling it “a war on coal” by the Obama administration, Tomblin vowed to personally take on the EPA until it understands that a key to America’s future lies in the use of natural resources.
“It is a fight from which I will not shrink, and one that I fully expect to win,” he promised, evoking thunderous applause.
“Coal is, and always will be, a part of our future.”
And while West Virginia's Joe Manchin, Nick Rahall and Shelley Capito also focus on West Virginia's energy past with similar comments, there's one group that's actually taking action to support West Virginia's energy future.
The West Virginia Sierra Club is doing something about West Virginia's energy future. At a community meeting in Preston County last weekend, Sierra Club representatives brought together residents, legislators and environmentalists to work together with utilities to craft coal-fired electric generation plant closure plans that take local needs into account. Unfortunately, the utility was a no-show. Perhaps they were holed up somewhere cozy with Tomblin, Manchin, Rahall and Capito crafting more crazy, coal-fired comments.
The Sierra Club has been successfully negotiating with energy companies in other states to give something back to their employees and the community when old, polluting plants close. "Last year, for example, workers and local governments in Centralia, Wash., assisted by the Sierra Club, negotiated a 15-year plant closure plan with TransAlta. The plan sets aside $50 million for energy efficiency and clean energy projects — initiatives that will keep electricity bills down and offset the jobs impact of the closure."
FirstEnergy would prefer that their employees who will lose their jobs if plants close place the blame on environmentalists, however, the responsibility is clearly the utility's. FirstEnergy has been aware that these plant closures were coming for years and should have been doing something to prepare for them that would protect jobs. However the only thing employees are getting in exchange for years of loyal service is a trip to the unemployment office because that is the solution that makes money for FirstEnergy. Money is the only thing that matters in the board rooms where decisions that affect "the little people" are made. Even now, with plant closures imminent, FirstEnergy is a no-show.
"I think one of the challenges is to get the message across that, no matter how much you love it, the status quo is not one of the options," said Sconyers of this first meeting, aimed an introducing the idea of entering a dialog with FirstEnergy.
Kotcon expressed frustration that little information has been forthcoming from the company.
"It is clear that economic forces are going to drive some very dramatic changes, but no one knows those data like FirstEnergy does," he said. "To get to a win-win scenario, FirstEnergy has to come forward with some discussion of what the market will dictate for the Albright plant and for plants like Rivesville and Willow Island."
And local residents will have to come together if they want a say in how this plays out, he said.
When push comes to shove is when you find out who your real friends are.