Charleston Gazette Mail. October 27, 2022.
Editorial: Vampire energy vs. greed of coal, PSC
Charlotte Lane, chairwoman of the West Virginia Public Service Commission, shared an interesting column this week on ways West Virginians can save money on their energy bills.
Going with a Halloween metaphor, she refers to “vampire energy” lurking in your home, and she’s not referring to Colin Robinson from “What We Do in the Shadows.” This is old, practical advice many have heard for years; suggestions such as unplugging phone chargers and microwaves when not in use, or plugging them into surge protectors that can be turned off, because they’re still drawing power and driving up your electric bill when plugged in. Simply taking a DVR out of standby mode can save you up to $50 a year, Lane says.
OK, fine. These are practical suggestions that can save West Virginians a few dollars here and there. Who knows, it might add up over time.
It won’t change the fact that West Virginians pay a lot more for electricity than customers in many other states. That’s because about 90% of electricity used in West Virginia comes from coal-fired power plants.
Over the past two decades, coal has gone from one of the cheapest sources of generating electricity to the most expensive. West Virginia’s reliance on burning coal for electricity is out of balance with the rest of the country, where it makes up about 20% of the energy grid. That’s still much more than a lot of renewables individually, although it’s dead even when looking at all renewables combined.
Despite coal’s decline as an energy source and its rising cost, Lane and the West Virginia PSC have done everything they can to keep the Mountain State reliant on the industry. The West Virginia PSC approved a plan to upgrade coal-fired plants originally set to shutter by 2028. Those plants provide power to West Virginians, but also to customers in Kentucky and Virginia. The public service commissions in those states rejected the upgrades as too expensive and out of step with energy industry trends. No problem, said the West Virginia PSC, ruling that not only could utility companies make these upgrades to keep the plants alive longer, but also allowing them to pay for the projects through massive rate hikes on customers in West Virginia.
American Electric Power subsidiaries were back earlier this year in front of the PSC seeking approval for another $297 million in rate hikes, which breaks down to a little more than $18 a month per customer in West Virginia. The PSC has yet to render a decision. This is all happening while that commission and the West Virginia Legislature attempt to force coal-fired plants to operate at 69% capacity, even when it makes no financial or practical sense.
Right now, the average West Virginian pays at least $155 a month for electricity. That’s up 150% compared to 15 years ago. Gradual increases in costs are expected with a lot of things, but the spike in electricity costs in West Virginia is on a different level and driven by greed. Unplug all the phone chargers, televisions and computers you want. It won’t mitigate the efforts of an agency stacked with coal-baron cronies keeping the industry alive with policies that punish the customer in one of the nation’s poorest states.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. November 2, 2022.
Editorial: Development: Reclaiming sites will require cooperation
West Virginians have heard a lot about the importance of “site readiness” in attracting new economic development. But in the Mountain State, getting a site ready for development can take on an entirely new meaning, as our fossil fuel heritage has left behind some scars.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, there is approximately $140 million headed our way to help clean up some of that mess — cleaning up abandoned coal mines and oil and gas wells, some of which not only contribute to pollution, but also pose safety hazards. Interior Department officials say the money, which is part of $725 million to be spent nationwide over the next 15 years, will help create “good-paying union jobs.”
Work will include closing mine shafts, reclaiming unstable slopes, improving water quality through treatment of acid mine drainage and restoring water supplies.
“This is about creating vitally needed jobs in communities that have often been marginalized, both in the immediate short-term and in the years to come as these projects become part of the foundation for new economic development,” said Secretary Deb Haaland of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Such cleanup efforts could lead to space for recreational facilities, renewable energy deployment and advanced manufacturing, the department suggests. But that kind of development is also helped along by local officials who find a way to make the sites ready in other ways, such as utility access and other infrastructure.
These projects do good for taxpayers only if bureaucrats and elected officials at ALL levels of government work together to make good things happen for our communities.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph. October 28, 2022.
Editorial: Help for retirees: Larger than normal COLA increase coming
Area senior citizens will see a larger than normal cost-of-living adjustment in their Social Security retirement and disability benefits in 2023. The 8.7 percent increase comes at a critical time with inflation soaring.
The cost-of-living adjustment is the largest that Social Security recipients have seen in more than 40 years. With the 8.7% boost, average checks will increase by an extra $140 a month beginning in January.
However, much of that extra income may be eaten up in part by the higher cost of everyday living. Inflation is still raging at a 40-year high, and the cost of everything from food and fuel to home heating and everyday household items has increased.
With the increase, the average monthly Social Security benefit for all retired workers will be $1,827 starting in January, according to the Associated Press. The boost in Social Security benefits will be coupled with a 3% drop in Medicare Part B premiums, meaning retirees will get the full impact of the Social Security increase.
However, the question for some Social Security recipients is whether this increase will be enough to cover the impact of inflation.
Inflation accelerated in September, with consumer prices increasing another 6.6 percent from a year ago. That’s the most consumers have paid for everyday goods in 40 years. Food and energy costs, in particular, are proving to be volatile. Some worry a recession may be looming in 2023.
Times are tough right now. So any extra income that can be added to the wallets of retirees will certainly help.
About 70 million people — including retirees, disabled people and children — receive Social Security benefits.
Locally, there is a large percentage of retirees in the southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia region.
An additional $140 a month will certainly help many of these families.
Also keep in mind that senior citizens in the region will soon be facing larger heating, gas and electric bills as winter approaches. The higher home heating bills often cut into other expenses for senior citizens. So the extra money comes at a good time.
Every extra dollar helps. For senior citizens living on a fixed-income, the COLA increase will make a positive difference during the most difficult of times.