Parkersburg News and Sentinel. April 4, 2023.
Editorial: Health: Low life expectancy should motivate us
West Virginians love our wild, wonderful state and look forward to many decades living in this Almost Heaven we call home. But the reality is we get a shorter span of time than those living in any other state, according to a study released by healthcare and supplements company Life Extension.
According to the company’s “States with the Best Outlook for Life Expectancy,” the Mountain State has the worst life expectancy in the country, with an average life expectancy at birth of 72.8 years; and the least healthy lifestyle. For comparison, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.5 years, though the U.S. ranks 40th in the world. That means West Virginia has the lowest life expectancy in a country that is ranked behind 39 other nations and steadily ticking down the ranks. Those living in places such as Kuwait, Estonia and Panama have a better shot at a long life than we do.
Here in West Virginia, the study found only 71.9% get any kind of exercise (frankly, that figure is probably a bit high), 67.5% say they eat healthy, 33% say they have anxiety, 42.8% get insufficient sleep. Meanwhile, only 1.9% of gross domestic product is spent on outdoor recreation.
There are complications to analysis of the data such as the horrifically disproportionate number of drug overdose deaths here, COVID-19, income/economy and socio-cultural habits shared with the other low-ranking states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Kentucky.
We could do better for ourselves, if enough of us could be convinced to make changes such as simply valuing our own health; quitting smoking, vaping and tobacco use; exercising more; eating healthier; getting more sleep; and taking advantage of all those wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities we market so well to tourists. On the other hand, better access to healthy foods, affordable healthcare (including mental healthcare) and better early education about healthy choices and movement would make a difference, too.
Lawmakers can do a little toward all those goals, but the reality is improving our ranking on this kind of report depends on the individuals. We’ve got to prioritize our health, make better personal decisions and do better for ourselves. Government can’t make that happen (nor would we want it to). No, ladies and gentlemen, this time getting better is up to us.
The Intelligencer. April 3, 2023.
Editorial: Time To Move W.Va. Forward
Mountain State residents think of ourselves as independent, “always free,” and as self-sufficient as we can be. Recent political trends would suggest we believe in small government, low taxes and dealing with as little interference from the folks in Washington as possible.
Reality is quite different however, as WalletHub’s “2023’s Most and Least Federally Dependent States” puts West Virginia in second place — behind only Alaska.
Far from being dead last in this study, where we are accustomed to landing in so many comparisons of states, this time West Virginia residents are number one … in terms of being the most federally dependent in the country. Our state government’s dependency on the feds ranks 9th. The Mountain State’s tax rates rank 17th.
“States receive federal aid for many reasons, from providing relief from natural disasters and health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic to funding improvements in education, transportation, infrastructure, healthcare and more,” WalletHub explained, in prefacing its report.
Here in West Virginia, however, the state has proved itself to be a “slow spender” when it comes to the kind of federal aid that is received as the result of a natural disaster. Still, our residents, communities and the state government itself rely on federal taxpayer dollars to get by — day to day and year after year.
It is yet another metric that demonstrates the paradox here in West Virginia; and one that should motivate lawmakers and economic development officials to be working their hardest to attract the kinds of employers that will provide jobs to free us from the chains we forged ourselves. Expansion and diversification of our economy could help break that dependency on the feds, but only if we make the changes that will attract and retain residents.
Voters got a sense this session of which lawmakers want to do that work, and which would rather watch us whither into total dependence on federal taxpayer dollars than move the state forward.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph. April 4, 2023.
Editorial: Coal bills: Justice seeks to boost industry
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has signed four bills into law that seek to bolster the state’s still struggling coal industry. Hoping to bring attention to the pro-coal legislation, the Republican governor traveled to the John Amos Power Plant in Putnam County for a signing ceremony last month.
All four bills easily passed the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this year. The bills encourage the generation of electricity through coal, and seek to prevent future closures of coal-fired plants in the Mountain State.
Using the John Amos Power Plant as a backdrop for the bill signing was a political and shrewd move by Justice.
The John Amos Plant has a nameplate rating of 2,933 mega watts, making it the largest generating plant in the American Electric Power system. AEP, the parent company of Appalachian Power, says the energy generated at the John Amos Plant is enough to power about 2 million homes. The plant also employs around 300 people with a payroll of over $27 million dollars.
All four bills signed by Justice could help the state’s coal industry.
The first, HB 3308, allows the Public Service Commission to consider and issue financing orders to certain utilities to permit the recovery of certain costs through securitization via consumer rate relief bonds. It also establishes that a public electric utility may not retire, abandon, close, or otherwise permanently render incapable of operating any electric generating plant or unit without the prior consent and approval of the Public Service Commission.
The second bill, HB 3482, encourages the development, transportation and use of electricity generated using West Virginia coal. The goal of this bill is to clearly affirm that West Virginia welcomes coal-fired power, making it as easy as possible for companies to build here.
The third, HB 3303, expands the powers and duties of the Coalfield Community Development Office, which is under the Department of Economic Development. It also provides funding to the office through federal grants and portions of West Virginia’s severance tax collections.
The fourth bill, HB 609, says that no existing coal, oil, or natural gas fueled power plant shall undertake any decommissioning or deconstructing activities prior to obtaining approval from the Public Energy Authority.
While the new state laws are contrary to ongoing federal efforts by the Biden administration to grow and promote renewable energy, no one should be surprised by the state-level legislation. West Virginia is now a solidly red state, and the Republican-super majority in Charleston has made it clear that they will continue to support coal.
While the new laws should help in the short-term to bolster coal production in the state, efforts on the federal level to promote renewable and green energy could still curtail future fossil fuel growth in the years ahead.
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