West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Exponent Telegram on the pursuit of natural gas-related industries:
For too many years West Virginia has allowed its natural treasures to be exploited, allowing for short-term economic growth but long-term economic struggles.
One only has to look at the coal industry to understand that for far too many years West Virginia allowed out-of-state corporations to prosper, only to see them leave — and take the economy with them.
While those mega corporations were here, residents and state coffers were in great shape. When they left, not so much.
So it’s important to learn from our past mistakes and to listen to the experts. And one of our own experts, West Virginia University’s John Deskins, is saying West Virginia must aggressively pursue downstream industries related to the natural gas boom.
Deskins, who heads WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, told NCWV Media Business Editor Conor Griffith that more needs to be done to attract those industries — and now.
“A real, transformative opportunity lies in downstream activity,” Deskins said. “And this is manufacturing opportunity, not extraction. We’ve been talking about this for several years. But just because there’s potential here, we can’t just assume it’s going to happen.
“It’s competitive out there, and we need to be very aggressive in making this happen. The natural gas industry could be game-changing for West Virginia’s economy — without question.”
Deskins was referring to neighboring states in the Marcellus and Utica shale basins, as well as states in the Gulf Coast region of the United States, where petrochemical industries have established roots.
He emphasized the importance of working to have a natural gas “cracker” plant that splits the gas into elements used in plastics and other petrochemical industries.
He also stressed the importance of a storage hub and has previously advocated for planned pipelines to ship some of the natural gas used for heating and power generation to out-of-state markets.
“The cracker plant could present many manufacturing opportunities downstream,” he said. “The storage hub would stabilize the market: In times of low demand, production can remain steady and excess can go into the storage hub; in times of high demand, you can draw down natural gas stored in the hub. It puts a stability factor in the market, and that’s a major point in locating that facility here.”
But the time to act is now, as neighboring states like Ohio and Pennsylvania are better positioned to reap the benefits of the cracker plant and storage hub.
“The natural gas industry and its downstream manufacturing byproduct have the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs,” he said. “We can’t be complacent, and the time to act is now. The biggest economic development question we’ll have for at least the next decade is how much of this downstream petrochemical activity we can attract to West Virginia.”
State officials have known this and have been working to put the Mountain State in better position to prosper. But more work needs to be done.
Natural gas and manufacturing advocates believe lawmakers need to address rules that continue to hurt those industries, including the lack of a “pooling” law, which makes it easier for companies to gain drilling rights, as well as taxation issues like the tax on inventory.
West Virginia leaders must continue to balance the rights of individuals with the potential good for the majority of people.
And according to the state’s top economic expert, more action is needed to entice natural gas and manufacturing development.
State residents and lawmakers should take heed.
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on a statue dedicated to World War I soldiers:
Members of American Legion Post No. 1 in Wheeling, celebrating the unit’s 100th anniversary, have a new cause: restoring the statue of a World War I soldier at Wheeling Park.
Troops in the Great War sometimes were referred to as “doughboys,” and that is how the statue honoring them has come to be known. A fixture at the park for decades, it has fallen into disrepair and needs work.
No World War I soldiers remain among us. That does not mean our obligation to honor them has passed.
Good luck to American Legion Post No. 1 in its fund drive to restore the statue. Let us hope it is concluded swiftly and successfully.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on providing transportation for disabled veterans:
The West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance is making the right move in rejoining the Disabled American Veterans program in which volunteers drive veterans with no other means of transportation to their medical appointments.
The program, as it pertains to the drivers, should never have come under state authority, but, in 2014, West Virginia decided to become the only state to pay drivers a stipend to do the work. Now, it has reached the point where the Department of Veterans Assistance can’t both maintain a vehicle fleet and pay drivers on its budget, so re-integrating with the DAV program is a logical step.
Naturally, the decision has been unpopular with some drivers who would rather continue to be paid than provide their services on a volunteer basis. The switchover isn’t until July 1, but officials who coordinate the driving schedules at Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics say they are already losing drivers.
The stipend was never intended to be a salary for drivers, but the Department of Veterans Assistance anticipated it would lose drivers, which is why the agency is trying to get the word out to recruit more volunteers.
Like any other shift in statewide policy, the southern counties will probably be the most affected. With the population spread out, it’s a more difficult area to serve. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.
In West Virginia, 8 percent of the population is comprised of military veterans. Mountain State residents are proud of their strong ties to the U.S. Military. Veterans have access to some of the best health care the federal government can provide among the state’s 10 VA hospitals and clinics, but it doesn’t do them any good if they can’t get there.
The men and women who served the country are relying on fellow West Virginians to step up, and it’s a call that cannot afford to go unanswered.
We urge those who are inclined and able to help to reach out and do so by contacting their local VA hospital or clinic. Drivers must be 21, must be able to be insured and must pass a physical and background check.
The hours and miles can be long, but what more noble act of selflessness is there than helping the ones who served the United States reach the health care they’ve earned?