CLARKSBURG — Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is not on the ballot for the upcoming Nov. 6 midterm election. The veteran lawmaker, who has represented West Virginia in the Senate since 2014, won’t be up for re-election until 2020.
While she may not currently be campaigning, Capito said she remains hard at work in Washington on behalf of West Virginians and their families.
During a recent slate of events and appearances in North Central West Virginia, Capito stopped by the offices of NCWV Media to discuss a number of important topics currently facing the state and the nation.
Capito, who sits on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said she’s been keeping a close eye on the region’s booming oil and gas industry.
“Where I see the growth in this part of the state is obviously a lot attributable to the natural gas industry expansions,” she said. “I honestly, from reports and estimates, think that the sky is the limit here in terms of where you can go.”
Capito provided an update on the Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub, a proposed multibillion-dollar project to build an underground natural gas liquids storage facility in the state. It’s a project that she and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have backed since its inception.
“I’m fully on board and very excited,” she said. “We got (U.S. Secretary of Energy) Rick Perry to Morgantown to talk about that early on and he’s been pushing the president. The president knows about this. We’ve been able to work with the Department of Energy to work with some loan guarantees. They’re moving forward in the private sector on a regional basis, which is great. Because if they can do it without any kind of government assistance or loan guarantees, great. But at the end of the day it will probably be as a package, when and if it happens.”
The project would be an important step towards helping the state retain more of the money generated from its vast stores of natural resources, Capito said.
“Instead of sending everything out as liquid natural gas, we’re going to have the ready resource right there for chemical expansion, plastics and advanced manufacturing, which is really what you need to keep the jobs here,” she said. “We’ve already seen what happens when you send your coal somewhere else and the wealth goes with it.”
When asked about the current climate of hyper-partisanship in Washington, Capito said she’s seen the level of rancor between the parties slowly increasing over the past decade or so.
“Over the Bush administration, over the Iraq situation, really began the seeds of much more outward shows of opposition. I’m talking about confrontations and sit-ins at your office and all that,” she said. “And then a little bit during the Obama administration, but quite frankly, I’ve never seen it this bad.
“Now I’ve never been confronted in a restaurant; I have been confronted at the grocery store but not in a restaurant. I just think that the lines of personal animosity or passion ... we’ve really got to tone this down. It really is the worst I’ve seen it.”
She and her colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, are actually more civil than the public might imagine, Capito said.
“Now on the floor of the House or the Senate are we at the point of caning one another like they did in the 1800s? No. We’re still getting a lot of these big things done,” she said.
However, the contentious confirmation hearing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court marked a further divide between the parties, Capito said.
“The Kavanaugh hearings were really tough, I think, and really sparked a lot of hurt feelings on both sides,” she said.
Capito said she recently played a role in helping to draft legislation that will provide assistance to those West Virginians and their families who have been impacted by the ongoing opioid crisis.
“The president just signed a major bill, called the Support Act,” she said. “One of the things that I was able to get in there that I’m particularly proud of is that West Virginia has a high mortality (rate), we know that. New Hampshire has the same problem. But our populations can’t drive the funding because we’re smaller states. So we were able to carve out some dollars that would actually pinpoint more concentrated dollars to the more highly affected area.”
The drug crisis has had a far-reaching impact on West Virginians, especially on the state’s children, Capito said.
“All of this is tied in. If you have a mother or father who is drugged out, are they going to get their kid to school? Are they going to make sure the child is eating or warm or clothed or bathed or all of the things. So we’re asking our teachers at that level to really help a lot with that. And we’re asking other generations, grandparents and foster families.”