By Chris Hamilton
Co-chairman, West Virginia Coal Forum
Senior Vice President, West Virginia Coal Association
Morgantown City Council is starting down a dangerous path.
In late June, the Council began consideration of a resolution to have the city of Morgantown support the Paris Climate Accord’s overall emissions reduction goals.
This action flies in the face of what is best for West Virginia and the nation. Let’s remember that President Donald Trump officially paused American compliance with the Accord while he renegotiates better terms for our country.
If the resolution ultimately passes, Morgantown will join other cities that have taken independent action on climate change via the Paris Accord regardless of the economic consequences.
Let’s be clear about this: Morgantown’s action serves as an affront to every single coal miner, manager and vendor that works tireless to keep coal mines running to produce low-cost reliable electricity for Americans.
West Virginia overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump for president last year, and a big part of that support was predicated on his commitment to help West Virginia’s coal industry recover from the devastating attack waged by regulation-happy Washington politicians during the last eight years and return to a position of economic strength.
Since President Trump took office, he immediately turned back several federal regulations that were initiated under the previous administration. Those Obama-era regulations were aimed squarely at reducing coal production and consumption. The eight years of anti-coal policy under President Obama contributed to thousands of mine workers losing their good-paying jobs.
Since the president halted implementation of Obama’s assorted anti-coal policies – and the Paris Climate Accord – our coal industry has seen hundreds of miners called back to work and even a few new mines slated to open soon.
It is just flat-out wrong for Morgantown City Council to ignore the recent progress in the coal industry and resurrect such an ill-conceived initiative launched under the former president.
As Talkline Host Hoppy Kercheval aptly summarized in his column July 28, the “Paris Agreement was going to make it even tougher on the beleaguered coal industry since it would have forced the United States to shutter more coal-fired power plants even as India, China and other countries continued to build them,” Kercheval wrote. “ … (T)he WVU community has endured a series of state funding reductions because of coal’s decline. The Paris Agreement would only have exacerbated the shortfall. Morgantown does not have any coal mines in the city limits, but it still received over $75,000 in coal severance tax money in the last 12 months.”Hoppy Kercheval aptly summarized in his column July 28, the “Paris Agreement was going to make it even tougher on the beleaguered coal industry since it would have forced the United States to shutter more coal-fired power plants even as India, China and other countries continued to build them,” Kercheval wrote. “ … (T)he WVU community has endured a series of state funding reductions because of coal’s decline. The Paris Agreement would only have exacerbated the shortfall. Morgantown does not have any coal mines in the city limits, but it still received over $75,000 in coal severance tax money in the last 12 months.”
Morgantown cannot have it both ways – they can’t condemn the coal industry and still hope to profit from coal mining.
The previous administration wanted to wean America off coal-fired power, which is the most fool-hardy approach imaginable. The Paris Climate Accord was part of that plan, but coal will be the leading source for electric power this year and is projected to be a global leader for many years. Coal is reliable, low-cost fuel and utilities have reduced emissions by more than 90 percent in the past few decades.
President Trump understands and appreciates the role coal plays in the American economy. Supporting the coal industry does not preclude development of renewables, but unrealistic and unwise plans like the Paris Climate Accord are dangerous for West Virginia and the country.
If Morgantown City Council wants to encourage area residents to conserve power, that’s great. If anyone within the city limits wants to use renewable energy forms to power their homes, they already are can do so simply by checking a box on their monthly utility bills. Electricity will cost them considerably more and won't be quite as reliable, but those residents can make that choice.
We and every miner embraces diversifying the economy and expanding the job base, but the Paris Climate Accord is not the way to achieve those goals. If the market supports expanded use of renewables, it will happen. Until then, can’t we please end the unfair market manipulation of the last eight years?
West Virginia coal is on the rebound thanks in large part to the change in leadership in Washington. We have a leader in President Trump who does not fall victim to politically correct policies. He has a firm grasp on what’s good for the American economy.
We in the coal industry hope the Morgantown City Council realizes the Paris Climate Accord is bad for the economy. It is nothing more than a rabbit hole of economic devastation, and we hope Morgantown changes course before it’s too late.