The Saturday Myer column: explaining recent West Virginia politics and a few words on western coal
The Governor switches parties
Local editor and weekend columnist Mike Myer devoted most of today's column to analyzing our governor's decision to switch parties. His conclusion:
During the past week, I’ve heard any number of speculations on why Justice switched parties (again). But the self-interest angle makes the most sense.
Oh, and don’t forget: As matters stand, it won’t hurt at re-election time for Justice to be viewed by many Mountain State voters as Donald Trump’s very good friend.
Okay, the simplest answer is often the right answer. But Justice won as a Democrat and doesn't need Trump's coattails. Nor (for lots of reasons) is it a given that Trump will run for reelection in 2020. And I'm not sure that switching parties will help Justice get his agenda passed. (Last time I looked, Ryan Ferns was still Senate President.)
Last night, Bloomberg published the following (which has been picked up and commented upon by others):
Some White House and Republican officials are exploring the idea of putting West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in charge of the Energy Department, according to four people familiar with the discussions, a move that could boost President Donald Trump’s stalled legislative agenda.
If Manchin were offered and accepted the position, that would allow West Virginia’s Governor Jim Justice -- a newly minted Republican -- to appoint a GOP successor and bring the party a vote closer in the Senate to being able to repeal Obamacare. The idea is in the early stages of consideration, and it’s unclear whether it has support within the administration, according to the people, who described the conversations under condition of anonymity.
That possibility does provide a rationale for the Justice switch and it could explain Manchin's "I don't give a shit" attitude on Sunday.
Today, this possibility picked up a couple of more layers from additional sources including Ron Gregory, who has held a couple of political positions in the state and writes for the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. Gregory added his thoughts but warned:
First, situations change quickly in politics. Second, I have long held that it is impossible for West Virginians to engage in a conspiracy because at least one of them will never remember what he or she has agreed to do - or would intentionally sabotage the plan.
Manchin was considered for the job earlier this year and Bloomberg says that it may have fallen through because Manchin wanted to pick his own staff.
Senator Capito almost cast the deciding vote that eventually would have gutted medical care for 150,000+ West Virginians. If this scenario plays out, Manchin's abdication might seal the deal.
Mike Myer finally acknowledges that cheaper and cleaner western coal is a one of the causes for Appalachian coal's decline
If you do any serious research on the causes for the decline of Appalachian coal mining, you have no doubt read that western coal is much cheaper to mine and it burns cleaner. With most sources, it's usually listed third behind cheap natural gas and increased mechanization (and ahead of government regulations) when the causes are listed. However, in the 3+ years that I have been writing about coal for this blog I have never seen western coal mentioned in this regard. Not once until today. Myer writes:
Justice wants the government to pay electric utilities $15 a ton for Appalachian coal they burn in power plants. He has said top Trump administration figures have expressed interest in the idea.
Most people aren’t aware of it, but much of the coal burned in eastern power plants comes from surface mines in Wyoming and other western states. It’s cheaper and, in some ways, better for meeting environmental standards. Encouraging power plants in our region to burn more eastern coal — in part through the subsidy and also by relaxing EPA regulations — could do a world of good for eastern mining companies and Appalachian miners.
Nice. Most people "aren't aware of it" because Wheeling papers have placed full blame on Obama and the EPA. It's nice to see Myer finally acknowledge western coal although he still doesn't care about the environment or the air we breathe.