Planning for a post-coal W.Va.

Coal billionaire Jim Justice is a noble philanthropist who rescued The Greenbrier resort, but not even he can prevent the relentless downturn of mining in Central Appalachia.

He promises to resolve several debt suits pending against his old coal firms, and added:

“Our economy is really struggling, utilities are converting to natural gas, and you may be witnessing the death of the coal industry.”

The decline evidently caused another 160 miner layoffs in Boone County by Alpha Natural Resources, which inflicted more suffering on the coal-dependent zone.

This sad community loss follows several similar setbacks in coal fields of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

Last month, Downstream Strategies of Morgantown released another somber analysis predicting that Central Appalachian coal production will drop by half before 2040 — chiefly because of “exhaustion of the thickest, most accessible coal seams.” It was the latest of numerous studies reaching similar conclusions.

Central Appalachia produced 290 million tons per year in the late 1990s, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says — but output dropped to 185 million in 2011, and is projected to be 128 million by 2020. Last year, two massive Wyoming strip mines provided 20 percent of U.S. tonnage, while all of Central Appalachia produced just 17 percent.

After World War II, West Virginia peaked at 125,000 miners, but the arrival of ever-better machines gradually wiped out the livelihood of more than 100,000 families.

West Virginia politicians focus solely on the fourth cause, accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of a “war on coal” — but pollution is just one aspect of the picture.

The latest Coal Age magazine contains a commentary by National Mining Association official Luke Popovich saying “war on coal” allegations “never resonated with much conviction among ordinary Americans. For them, the EPA keeps the air and water clean, their kids safe.”

Instead of railing against pollution restrictions, this state’s leaders should analyze the economic change that is sweeping West Virginia, and begin intelligent planning for a different future.

– From the June 17

The Charleston Gazette



Stick with Core standards

West Virginia’s continued progress toward implementing educational goals known as Common Core State Standards is the right move, despite complaints of critics who allege ominous motives for the program.

The main criticisms, advanced by Tea Party groups, appear to be unfounded and basically discard the logical benefits of implementing the Common Core Standards in West Virginia.

Fortunately, the state’s Department of Education is moving ahead in developing, adopting and implementing the standards.

The Common Core State Standards initiative is a state-led effort to establish clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. The initiative was launched and continues to be led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, with input from teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country along with state leaders.

States can voluntarily adopt the standards, and 45 have done so already. The end goal is to provide clear year-to-year objectives about what students should learn, as well as seeing that they are adequately prepared to continue their education or enter the work force after graduating from high school.

Critics contend, however, that the Common Core State Standards represent an attempted takeover of education by the federal government. In addition, they allege that gathering information about students and their performance in meeting the standards amounts to “data mining” for improper purposes, such as profiteering. Some fear that the system is — or will be — used to collect information related to religious and political backgrounds or leanings.

State education officials contend that’s not true — that collection of information will be the same as it has been in the past.

There’s no question that West Virginia’s schools and students must improve their performance. The state lags most other states in most educational achievement rankings.

Adoption of the Common Core State Standards should allow the state’s educational system to benefit from best practices and proven strategies from around the country. To reject that opportunity based on so-far groundless fears of a national takeover or “data mining” would only shortchange the state’s children.


– From the June 17

Herald-Dispatch of Huntington


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