Coal Country Clobbered by Climate-fueled Cataclysm
June 25, 2016
The sad fact about the working class people who have supported right wing politics historically in the US, is that they are themselves so often the victims of the policies their political heroes advocate. This is certainly true in areas of environment and climate, and yet another of those increasingly common “one in a thousand year” events in West Virginia illustrates vividly.
Huge floods ravaging West Virginia have killed at least 23 people, stranded hundreds and left tens of thousands without power overnight, officials said late Friday.
The threat of pop-up showers and overflowing rivers was still a concern late, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said that search and rescue efforts remained a priority to help people trapped in swamped homes and cars. He said 200 National Guard members have been deployed in eight counties with about 300 more authorized to help with ongoing relief.
The storm system dumped 9 inches of rain on parts of West Virginia and trapped 500 people in a shopping center for more than 24 hours after a bridge washed out. Crews completed a temporary roadway Friday night and evacuated all those who wanted to leave although some decided to stay.
Dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued as waters quickly rose during the deluge.
The heavy rainfall over six to eight hours prompted the National Weather Service to call it a “one-in-a-thousand-year event.”
A burning house being carried away by flood waters is as vivid a metaphor for global climate catastrophe as I’ve ever seen.
A relentless torrent of rain swept over West Virginia Thursday, flooding many areas in the state. Greenbrier County, home of the famed Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, was among the hardest hit.
Floodwaters inundated the Greenbrier’s signature golf course, where the Professional Golfers’ Association Tour’s Greenbrier Classic is scheduled in two weeks. It’s unclear whether the course will recover in time.
The owner of the golf course is West Virginia’s own home-grown ersatz Donald Trump, a climate denying billionaire who is running for Governor on a platform of resuscitating the region’s moribund coal industry.
The only real political outsider in the governor’s race this year, Jim Justice might also have the most statewide name recognition. Outside the political arena, Justice has built empires in coal, agriculture and tourism, and with that, a reputation for getting things done.
Worth more than $1.5 billion, Justice has become a household name in the region after his 2009 purchase of The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs. Justice’s investment there, $20.1 million, seemed to be at once a bargain and an instantaneous boondoggle when he began losing more than $1 million a week at the historic property.
Justice’s plan is to play to the state’s strengths, and he says that means coal. The idea he laid out for The Register-Herald editorial board is detailed, fairly simple in its concept, extremely complicated in execution.
The first phase of his idea is to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to give the state a cumulative, weighted limit for carbon emissions, instead of an individual limit for each power plant. Next, he’ll demand that state power plants burn West Virginia coal, and he’ll build four new, smaller coal-fired power plants, along with wood chip plants, in areas where coal and timber will be available into perpetuity and the plants would have no transportation costs. After that, he says he’ll convince utility companies to lower West Virginia rates by 10 percent across the board, while allowing companies to charge what the market will bear for electricity they sell to other states.
And when he, as governor, markets West Virginia as having lower utility costs by 10 percent, he says that businesses will flock to the Mountain State.
“They’d run over top of us to get here,” he said.