Editorial: Capito Bill Vital to Coal Country

Here in West Virginia and East Ohio, we need no statistics to bring the impact of the current White House’s war on coal and affordable electricity home to us. The victims are all around us. Laid-off miners and even more other unemployed men and women whose jobs once depended on the good paychecks handed out by the coal industry tell us all we need to know. And here in West Virginia, the collapsed state budget is another casualty. Still, the numbers are eye-openers: Between 2011 and the first quarter of this year, the coal industry shed 67,190 jobs, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The downstream multiplier translates that to hundreds of thousands of jobs thrown away by the current administration’s policy. Yet despite claims the nation would not turn its back on suffering in the coalfields, Washington has provided little meaningful help to West Virginia and more limited coal economies seeking to diversify. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., wants to change that. Capito has introduced the Creating Opportunities for Rural Economies Act in an attempt to earmark some federal economic development funds for West Virginia and other regions hit hard by the war on coal. Her plan is to set aside 5 percent of the money in an existing program, the New Market Tax Credit. That would amount to $525 million during a three-year period — the kind of money that can make a real difference in rebuilding an economy. Capito’s bill leaves federal bureaucrats little discretion. It requires the $525 million be spent in the 30 counties where the most coal jobs have been lost, or counties adjacent to them. Billions of dollars in federal economic development funds are handed out every year, but a large percentage goes to urban areas which have not been affected adversely by the current president’s initiatives. Capito’s bill would require that to change. It would force the federal government to help some of the people it has hurt. A new president, Donald Trump, will take office in January. He has pledged to reverse many of the policies that have hurt coal families, towns, counties and states. But some of the damage already done cannot be reversed. Some areas, including several counties in West Virginia, must alter their economies. Capito’s bill should be enacted simply because federal help is needed — and, just as important, deserved in coal country.

Source: The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register