Blog - Wheeling Alternative

Go to content

Main menu:

--- Moving

Published by waner in info · 1/5/2015 13:56:00
Tags: info


May 1 - Moving Day

I've reached the limits of my web program and my ongoing problem with it changing my font type and size after "publishing" is getting worse.

Consequently, yesterday's post on the Intelligencer's coverage of the no confidence vote at West Liberty will be the last new post on this site.  Since I've already paid rent on the space, I will maintain this site and try to organize it so that I can refer new posts to some of the information found in past posts.

The new site is here or copy and paste: https//thewheelingalternative.silvrback.com/.  (Don't forget to bookmark it.)

I switched to silvrback because (most importantly) it is much easier to blog.  Additionally, it should provide a better experience for you, the reader.  I think you'll find the site easier to navigate and the posts easier to read.  It also has RSS which allows you to get notification when a new post has been published.

For the month of April I reached 500 unique visitors.  Hopefully I will see all of you over at my new site.

Note --- I am still configuring mail.  If you would like to get in touch with me, click on contact me above.



--- We were overdue for another biased headline

Published by waner in Wheeling Intelligencer · 30/4/2015 14:59:00
Tags: Intelligencer
Photo arrives too late to accompany "fair and balanced" headline

Here's the headline above the Intelligencer's front page article about yesterday's West Liberty Faculty Senate's "no confidence" vote for chief financial officer, Jack Wright :

Faculty Senate Has New Target

And here's the photo of the proceedings that arrived after the "newspaper" was published:




Note -- the Intelligencer does deserve kudos for not using the word "radicals" or the phrase "reign of terror" anywhere in the article. And other than decapitation, could there be anything worse than a vote of no confidence from a faculty senate?

For contrast, here's the headline (using the same information) in today's Charleston Gazette:

West Liberty faculty votes no confidence in administrator


--- Morrisey watch 7

Published by waner in Morrisey · 29/4/2015 13:55:00
Tags: Morrisey
Chris Hamilton, who is "Senior Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association; chairman of the WV Business & Industry Council and member of the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health & Safety and West Virginia Diesel Commission," has written an op-ed piece featured in the Logan Banner and the Charleston Daily Mail that describes how the EPA is devastating our state and how lucky we are to have elected officials like Attorney General Morrisey and companies like Murray Energy willing to fight the good fight:

West Virginians should thank Attorney General Morrisey and Murray Energy Corporation for leading the charge to block this legally flawed EPA proposal in the court of law. The lawsuit, and those yet to come, will help avoid the pain that EPA’s proposal will inflict on West Virginia families, workers and employers.

Morrisey, in conjunction with other conservative state AGs, has been keeping busy filing lawsuits against the Obama administration on the EPA, gun laws, immigration, and Obamacare. (In my old blog section, go to categories and then click on Morissey  for watch's  #1,2,5 and 6.) From what I have read, none of these lawsuits will succeed. That wasn't their purpose, however. The real purpose was to enhance his position with state Republicans/conservatives and more importantly, with big election donors like Murray Coal, the NRA, and the Kochs. With Hamilton's op-ed piece, it certainly looks like he is on his way.

Local lawyer and blogger, Chris Regan, has an outstanding post on Morrisey on his blog, Home Yesterday, about Morrisey's political use of the attorney general's office. Here is a sample:

Attorneys general used to act something like real lawyers. But more recently, they have become more like at-large representatives of their political constituencies, and their donors. Morrisey might be the paradigmatic example of the trend, even going so far as to misrepresent West Virginia’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act in order to strike a partisan pose. 


--- Removing mountaintops and some coal history

Published by waner in coal · 28/4/2015 19:36:00
Tags: coalmountaintop
Mountaintop removal and the community



iLoveMountains.org is an invaluable resource if you care about the Appalachian mountains and what mountaintop removal is doing to them. The site is up with a new resource (with an interactive map) called "Communities at risk from mountaintop removal."

For years, it was impossible to track the spread of mountaintop removal coal mining in Central Appalachia over the course of time. Appalachian Voices has compiled 30 years of satellite imagery and other data to show how this destructive form of coal mining is gradually getting closer to communities, even as coal production in the region is declining.

Of the thousands of communities at risk, the research identified the top 50 where the adverse effects of mountaintop removal — including water pollution, increased health risks, poverty rates and population loss — is greatest.

Needless to say, West Virginia has more than its fair share in the top 50.

(image from Alternet)
(hat tip to Ken Ward, Jr. at Coal Tattoo)



April 28 -- remembering the mining disasters

It was on this day in 1914 that the second worst mining disaster in West Virginia occurred in Eccles. 183 miners perished.

And on this day in 1928 an explosion at the Benwood Mine took the lives of all 119 miners on the morning shift.


--- Fracking news update

Published by waner in fracking · 25/4/2015 19:46:00
Tags: fracking
Fracking companies going bankrupt

Bloomberg Business News is reporting that "Half of U.S. Fracking Companies Will Be Dead or Sold This Year."

Half of the 41 fracking companies operating in the U.S. will be dead or sold by year-end because of slashed spending by oil companies, an executive with Weatherford International Plc said.

There could be about 20 companies left that provide hydraulic fracturing services, Rob Fulks, pressure pumping marketing director at Weatherford, said in an interview Wednesday at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston. Demand for fracking, a production method that along with horizontal drilling spurred a boom in U.S. oil and natural gas output, has declined as customers leave wells uncompleted because of low prices.


Fracking -- a feminist issue?

As the Washington Times recently reported:

In an April 6 lecture at the University of Pittsburgh, biologist Sandra Steingraber of New Yorkers Against Fracking described the fight over oil and natural gas development as a feminist issue.

“Fracking as an industry serves men. Ninety-five percent of the people employed in the gas fields are men. When we talk about jobs, we’re talking about jobs for men, and we need to say that,” Ms. Steingraber says in a video posted on YouTube by the industry-backed group Energy in Depth.

“The jobs for women are ‘hotel maid’ and ‘prostitute,’” she says. “So when fracking comes into a community, what we see is that women take a big hit, especially single women who have children who depend on rental housing.”

Not surprisingly, the fracking industry answered:

Supporters of the industry swung back by citing a 2014 report from the American Petroleum Institute, which found that women filled 226,000 oil, gas and petrochemical industry jobs, or 19 percent of those jobs.


Is fracking increasing the radon in our homes?

West Virginia Public Broadcasting is reporting on a study that suggests a possible link between fracking and radon gas in homes:

A new study of a radioactive, carcinogenic gas has grabbed the attention of news outlets and both pro and anti-fracking groups alike. The study published earlier this month says increases of radon gas in people’s homes in Pennsylvania coincide with the horizontal drilling boom. Some geological researchers in the region are skeptical while others aren’t at all surprised.


--- West Virginia and renewable energy

Published by waner in coal · 24/4/2015 16:47:00
Tags: coalrenewables
Divorcing ourselves from reality

The McClatchy News Service published an article about the growth of jobs in the renewable energy sector on Wednesday. Here's the lede:

Far more jobs have been created in wind and solar in recent years than lost in the collapse of the coal industry, and renewable energy is poised for record growth in the United States this year.

The article gets specific by citing a recently published study:

Researchers at Duke University, using data from renewable energy trade associations, estimate in a new study published in the journal Energy Policy that more than 79,000 direct and spinoff jobs were created from wind and solar electricity generation between 2008 and 2012.

That compares with an estimate of about 49,530 coal industry job losses, according to the study. While natural gas was the biggest winner in creating jobs for electricity generation, with almost 95,000 jobs created in that time, it’s clear renewable energy has been on the rise in the United States.

And what did the study say was important to the growth of renewable energy jobs?

State laws also helped drive the growth outside of Appalachia. Pratson said. Twenty-nine states specify a percentage of renewable electricity that utilities should meet, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Kentucky and West Virginia are not among them.

“States with incentives have more growth,” said Drew Hearer, a Duke University research analyst who co-authored the study. “The Southeast is incentive-free, and there is almost no development of green energy there compared to other regions.”

West Virginia has been going backwards - you need only return to January to find the legislature make their first priority an attack on renewables even though, in this particular case, the utilities and coal companies had encouraged the law's passage in the first place:

CHARLESTON (AP) - The West Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a repeal of an energy portfolio Thursday, which is poised to become the first bill the newly-minted GOP Legislature sends to Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The House voted 95-4 Thursday to repeal the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

The McClatchy article does suggest that there may be some geographic barriers to the widespread deployment of wind and solar alternatives in West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. Still, the thrust of the article is that the state is being left behind.

In the last year as I've written about coal and the future of West Virginia, I've found that the more I read on the subject, the more pessimistic I've become about the state's future. Coal is more and more expensive to get out of the ground (it increasingly can't compete with natural gas and other sources of energy), it is polluting our air and water, and is the major cause of climate change. What has made me especially pessimistic is that a majority of the state's politicians and a sizable number of the citizens who voted for them believe that we can ignore reality and somehow the state will be transported (magically?) to the 1950s, long before increased mechanization, environmental awareness and cheaper alternatives took its toll on the industry. We can't go back -- the marketplace and rest of the country have decided. Instead of our conversation being about trying to find ways to transition away from coal and finding alternatives in energy and job sourcing, its about rallying the troops around a lost cause. The state's separation from reality looks like it has become a divorce.


--- Murray speaks to the St. Clairsville Rotary

Published by waner in coal · 23/4/2015 16:04:00
Tags: coalMurray
"Same As It Ever Was"
                -- the Bob Murray Wheeling Area Service Organization Tour continues 

The CEO of Murray Energy, Bob Murray, added yet another Wheeling area service club to his local speaking tour and once again a reporter for Ogden newspapers was there to cover it. From the description in Wednesday's Intelligencer, Tuesday's speech to the St. Clairsville Rotary was apparently very similar to the ones that he delivered to the Wheeling Rotary in January and the Wheeling Kiwanis in December. Like its predecessors, it featured attacks on Obama, stories about Murray's humble beginnings, attacks on the EPA, scary stories about the future cost of electricity, and, of course, more attacks on Obama. (Wisely, the Ogden newspapers sent a different reporter -- probably to insure that the story would not be exactly the same as one of the previous stories.)

Attendees also got to hear the same evidence for his assertions that previous audiences had heard. Once again Murray asserted that "every coal mining job creates 11 more jobs in a community." When I wrote about his speeches in December and January, I could not find any study that claimed 11 jobs for every mining job. What I did find was that the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that 4.4 indirect jobs were created, the University of Massachusetts Political Economy and Research Institute had a similar number (see chart below), and even Arch Coal only claimed seven indirect jobs. This time Murray claimed the research was done by Penn State University. Okay, I believe that I found their most recent study here but I could find nothing about 11 indirect jobs. (If it's there, it's well-hidden.) For Murray this didn't matter -- who was going to challenge him? It certainly wouldn't be a reporter from the local "newspaper."




This just in

There is a rumor making the rounds that in order to celebrate the tour and provide funds for Murray Coal's next coal mine purchase, t-shirts and a CD will be sold at the next stop on the tour. The t-shirts will have a picture of a lump of coal surrounded by the names of all the service groups on the tour. The CD will feature an eclectic mix.

Show tunes:

It's Delightful, It's Delovely, It's Bituminous (Coal Porter)

Mine Every Mountain

    Thank the Almighty -- I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm Because My Electric Bills Will Be So High        Because of Obama's War on Coal That Is If He Doesn't Bankrupt the Country First (classic remix)

Some country sounds:

The E-P-A Makes Me W-E-E-P

My Woman's Gone, My Dog Died, and Obama Just Got Re-elected

The Only Natural Gas I Like Comes From Beans

And of course, some "classic rock" covers:

Stop Making Sense

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Light My Fire (With Something Other Than Natural Gas)

In a Gadda Da Vida


--- More on coal ash

Published by waner in coal · 21/4/2015 11:17:00
Tags: coalMcKinleyashIntelligencer
This morning's Intelligencer editorial on coal ash tells us why we need local Representative David McKinley's proposal to limit the EPA's oversight of coal ash. The editorial gives the reader the impression that coal ash is a harmless byproduct of the use of coal at electric plants. (Hey, it's "used in a a variety of products, including drywall and concrete"and so it must be safe.) Nowhere in the editorial is there any mention of the harms it causes. (For descriptions of the problems caused by coal ash, simply google "harms of coal ash.") One of the best sources that I found is "Coal Ash: Hazardous to Human Health" by Physicians for Social Responsibility. Another excellent source for information on the subject is the Earthjustice website.

In addition to information, Earthjustice also produces short videos. Here is their most recent video on the topic.

Another outstanding Earthjustice video that brings the problem home is "Little Blue" which is about the harmful effects that coal ash has had on the environment in the northern-most area of West Virginia's northern panhandle. (I've referenced "Little Blue" in previous posts on this subject.)

The sad irony is that "Little Blue" is located inside McKinley's congressional district.

McKinley's bill would have major environmental effects. As Frank Holleman who is Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center has noted:

Rep. David McKinley's bill would dismantle the EPA’s recently announced coal ash protections, put public health and safety at risk by stripping the few critical safety requirements and protections included in the rule, and result in continuing coal ash contamination with no repercussions or responsibility for cleanup.

A final note/question -- the Intelligencer's editorial once again tells us the success that McKinley has had fighting the EPA: "After McKinley exposed the absurdity of the EPA's plan, the agency backed away." This is the third time in the last year that the Intelligencer has asserted this point and after considerable research I have yet to find anything that the EPA backed away from because of David McKinley. As I have asked previously, does anyone know what EPA plan the Intelligencer is talking about or is the Intelligencer giving him credit where credit isn't due?


--- More "war on coal" perspectives

Published by waner in coal · 20/4/2015 17:36:00
Tags: coal
Two weeks ago I wrote about a new book, journalist Richard Martin's Coal Wars. Late last week, two additional articles used Martin's book as a starting place for a discussion of the "war on coal."

Tim McDonnell of Grist looked at Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell's attempt to change the inevitable future in "Coal is dying all by itself ." (Note that McConnell has the same perception of reality and uses the same reasoning as our local "newspapers."):

His latest maneuver came last month when he called on state lawmakers to simply ignore the administration’s new rules, in order to resist Obama’s “attack on the middle class.”

His logic, apparently, is that if Kentucky can stave off Obama long enough, the coal industry still has a glorious future ahead. That logic is fundamentally flawed. While Obama’s tenure will probably speed up the country’s transition to cleaner energy, the scales had already tipped against coal long before he took office. Kentucky’s coal production peaked in 1990, and coal industry employment peaked all the way back in the 1920s. The scales won’t tip back after he leaves. The “war on coal” narrative isn’t simply misleading, it also distracts from the very real problem of how to prepare coal mining communities and energy consumers (i.e., everyone) for an approaching future in which coal is demoted to a bit role after a century at center stage.

Similar to this is a Friday article in Salon: "Rand Paul’s “big coal” lie: The real reason the industry is dying" by Lindsay Abrams. Abrams has another explanation for the recent local coal mining layoffs we read about in our local "newspapers:"

Hundreds of West Virginia coal workers lost their jobs Tuesday, and according to Murray Energy, the company that laid them off, they have “the ongoing destruction of the United States coal industry by President Barack Obama, and his supporters” to thank.

The layoffs — and the justification given for them — were conveniently timed to the legal battle beginning Thursday, in which Murray is one of the plaintiffs bringing suit against the Environmental Protection Agency for its proposed rule limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Regardless of what the actual reason for the layoffs might be, you can’t buy anti-regulatory propaganda like that.

Abrams notes the same causes of coal's decline that you will find discussed almost everywhere outside of coal country where the president and the EPA are your standard scapegoats: market forces (especially natural gas), increased use of technology, the "mining out" of the KY/WV coal fields and competition from western states. Abrams also references Martin on why McConnell is doing more harm than good:

“When people like Mitch McConnell stand up in the U.S. Senate and decry the Obama administration’s war on coal,” he said, “they’re not really helping their constituents. Every hour or dollar spent on fighting the war on coal is a resource that doesn’t go to really helping these people in places where the coal industry is not coming back.”

I've just ordered Martin's book. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it at a later date.


--- What have our senators been doing lately?

Published by waner in WV politics · 19/4/2015 20:31:00
Tags: ManchinCapito
Democrat-in-name-only (DINO) Joe Manchin

Both of these votes have garnered very little notice from the media.

The Estate Tax

Three weeks ago I wrote about Manchin being the only Democrat to vote for an amendment that would have eliminated the Estate Tax. (See "Odds and Ends" April 3 below). On Thursday he once again joined Republicans in an effort to repeal the tax. As Fortune magazine describes:

The vote was symbolic. Senate Democrats (minus West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin) and President Obama remain opposed to a repeal, ensuring it won’t advance any further than it did today in the foreseeable future.

As I asked earlier this month, why is Joe joining the Republicans on this vote? Since it would provide a huge giveaway to the super rich, most Democrats are opposed to eliminating the tax. As Fortune editorializes at the end of their article:

Among the groups leaning on lawmakers to roll back the tax: an association going by the nothing-to-see-here name of the Policy and Taxation Group, which has reportedly drawn support from a handful of super-rich families, including the Gallos, the Kochs, Mars’, and the Waltons. If Congressional Republicans think that’s the crowd most in need of a break this tax season, they should probably get out more.

How bad is this effort when even Fortune is taking shots at the Republicans on this issue? I searched for the senator's justification for his vote but could not find any. Maybe Joe also needs to get out more.

Motorcyle Helmets

Earlier this week U.S. News and World Report described efforts to eliminate funding for police checking motorcyclists for helmets:

Motorcycle enthusiasts and members of Congress are pushing to ban federal funding of local efforts to check helmet use or establish checkpoints that single out bikers.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., reintroduced his Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act on Thursday, following the quiet introduction of a bill with the same name by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in January.
The only Democrat signed on as co-sponsor is Joe Manchin. 

 This one intrigued me. After a little research on this subject (I obviously have way too much free time), I found that as WV governor in 2005 he tried to get the state helmet law changed:

Manchin has directed the state Department of Transportation to study whether West Virginia could do away with the helmet requirement, at least in part, while maintaining safety. . . .

Manchin held a press conference on the steps of the state Capitol at 2 p.m., and then mounted his 1999 Harley Road King Classic and rode with about a dozen others to a motorcycle rally at Snowshoe Mountain.


Feminist Shelley Moore Capito

Who says the Republicans don't care about women?

Earlier this week, Senate Republicans introduced a new bill, of which Shelley Moore Capito is a co-sponsor, called the Workplace Advancement Act. The bill attempts to demonstrate that Republicans do indeed care about American women. Non-Republicans were a bit more cynical, the Huffington Post in "Senate Republicans Propose Stripped-Down Equal Pay Bill", argues that it is just a much watered-down version of a bill that Democrats have been pushing for years. The real purpose of the bill is to embarrass the Democrats:

Fischer's bill paints Democrats into a corner. If they vote against it, they risk being accused of hypocritically blocking equal pay legislation. But they can't accept Fischer's legislation as a replacement for their own, more comprehensive bill, which they've been fighting to pass for years.

The best analysis of the bill I found is by Kaili Joy Gray over at Wonkette who points out that the bill doesn't require training for EEOC employees on discrimination issues and it doesn't allow wage studies to eliminate disparity. As she concludes:

So, in other words, the Republican version borrows one idea from the Democratic version, skips the rest, and pretends that it is the best way to promote and enforce pay equality. And if Democrats really care about women and their paychecks, they should support this watered-down bill, which has the “bipartisan” support of Independent Sen. Angus King and “Democrats” Joe Donnelly and Joe Manchin. You know whose support it doesn’t have? The Democratic women who’ve been slamming their heads against their desks as Republicans insist America doesn’t need any more equal pay laws, thank you very much. But shouldn’t those ladies just shut their squeal holes and listen to the menfolk on this? (No, they should not, and they will not.)

I'm sure that in the future we will hear about how Capito is such a strong supporter of women's rights. As for Manchin, I still think that he will officially become a Republican at some point down the road.

UPDATE --- As I write this, Joe has announced that he will not run for governor in 2016. 


Older posts
Back to content | Back to main menu