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National energy policy has weakened W.Va.

Here sits West Virginia, the bluest of states, up to its ears in lack of opportunity, poverty and social pathologies, its weakened population increasingly dependent on government programs for survival.

And what do the brethren in Washington do?

The Obama administration, with the consent of the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, declares war on coal, the backbone of the state's economy, making it more difficult for West Virginia Democrats to provide those services.

The federal government, with its anti-coal policies, is weakening the economy upon which the state's operation depends.

As Daily Mail Capitol Reporter Zack Harold noted earlier this week, the state ended fiscal year 2012 not with the expected $4.149 billion in tax collections, but with $4.05 billion in revenue.

Thus, the state ended fiscal year 2013 with a $90.6 million deficit. Under state law - unlike federal law - such a thing cannot be.

So Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin cut $17.7 million from the state's Medicaid reserve fund, the state emptied its $45 million income tax reserve fund, and the Legislature passed $28.3 million in budget cuts to slow the hemorrhage.

The primary cause of this little cash flow problem was a drop in severance tax collections from the production of coal and natural gas.

The state expected to collect about $461.5 million in severance tax revenue. It actually received $409.7 million from those energy sources.

The price of natural gas stayed low, and coal sales fell by more than 15 percent. The state actually produced about 20 million tons less than it did in fiscal year 2012.

The administration's energy policies have had and will continue to have a harmful effect on well being not just of many West Virginians, but on the health of the state they love.

At present, Pete DuPont noted in The Wall Street Journal, coal is used to generate about 40 percent of the nation's electric power. The United States has enough coal to supply 200 years' worth of demand.

But federal rules make it nearly impossible to build new coal-fired power plants, and the president - with the Senate's support - now intends to set rules that will shut down more existing coal plants.

West Virginians will pay dearly for that, and it seems likely their state government will too.

 


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