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Congressman Evan Jenkins

Representing the 3rd District of West Virginia

Rep. Jenkins: Mr. President, if you want to help W.Va., end war on coal

October 20, 2015
Columns

Dear Mr. President: Welcome to Charleston, our state’s capital city, to talk about a serious problem – drug abuse. We know all too well that West Virginia has the highest overdose rate in the country, and it is difficult to find any family not touched in some way by drug abuse. Many have buried a loved one due to the horrible disease of addiction.

We have already taken significant steps to help stem the tide of this crisis. Our state Legislature has passed some of the strongest laws in the country to strengthen our prescription monitoring program, close pill mills, enhance support for treatment and recovery and provide first responders with better life-saving medications. I personally worked with caring individuals and health professionals to start Lily’s Place in Huntington to care for newborn infants suffering from the ravages of drug withdrawal after birth.

We also have a jobs crisis — West Virginia has the highest unemployment rate and lowest workforce participation in the country. Is there a link between drug use and employment status?

Research has found that illegal drug use among the unemployed is more than double that of those who are employed, 18 percent as compared to 8 percent. If we truly want to make an impact on the drug crisis in West Virginia, we must get people back to work. I firmly believe that a good job solves a lot of problems.

Mr. President, crushing regulations from your Environmental Protection Agency have significantly contributed to our jobs crisis. If you want to see the harsh reality of your policies, head south to see how your war on coal has impacted the hardworking people of West Virginia.

During your seven years as president, we have lost more than 40 percent of our good-paying coal jobs. That’s thousands of employees with responsibilities — bills, families, and rent or house payments — who joined the unemployment line. How will they provide for themselves and others without these coal jobs? Hope can fuel a society, giving people a purpose to provide for their families, support their communities and turn away from drugs. Mr. President, you have squashed this hope.

The economic toll to our state from your policies continues to mount. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin recently announced a worse-than-expected decline in coal and gas severance tax collections, a shortfall of $190 million. This has forced mid-year budget cuts to education, in particular our K-12 public schools.

Mr. President, West Virginians are a proud people. We are not asking for a handout. We want to do a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Coal has powered our nation and this state’s economy for more than 100 years. Coal can and must be part of our country’s energy future.

Until you end your EPA’s regulatory assault on coal, our state will continue to suffer. More coal miners will be idled, more workers will join the unemployment lines and our state’s economy will continue to suffer. If you want to improve the lives of West Virginians, get off our backs. If you want to help us combat drug addiction and abuse, end your war on coal.