Don’t forget our state’s coal communities

West Virginia lawmakers know they can’t put it off any longer. They have to start working to help the people who could be left in the lurch as the state’s economy inevitably transitions. Specifically, state House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and House Minority Leader Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, announced earlier this month the creation of a work group to dig up ideas for revitalizing coal communities.

Never let it be said the folks in Charleston don’t eventually catch on.

Delegate Mark Dean, R-Mingo, will lead the work group, which will visit Moundsville, Logan, Montgomery, Morgantown, Welch and Beckley to discuss ideas for revitalization. The visits are planned for September.

The announcement came just as Monongalia County Resources Inc., a subsidiary of St. Clairsville-Ohio-based American Consolidated Natural Resources, said it will shut down a mine later this year and permanently lay off 180 workers.

Del. Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, who is part of the work group, said officials want to hear from coal communities “so that the people most affected by the decline in coal production can have a voice in what’s needed to diversify our economies and create jobs.”

Wonderful. Now let’s hope they actually listen to the ordinary men and women who will be most affected by this transition, and not to the still-influential lobbyists who have encouraged politicians to take so long to get to this point. The time for a top-down approach to deciding what’s right for West Virginia coal communities has long passed. Let’s hear from the people in these towns about what will really help them — and then let’s do something about it.


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