U.S. Rep. David McKinley Addresses Wheeling Rotary

WHEELING — U.S. Rep. David McKinley believes coal needs to remain a major part of America’s energy mix to avoid leaving West Virginia “vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters,” he told members of the Wheeling Rotary Club on Tuesday.

“I like to focus primarily on energy because that really affects us here in the valley. There are major decisions affecting us that must be addressed,” McKinley, R-W.Va., said.

McKinley acknowledged that natural gas makes up an increasing share of the nation’s energy portfolio, but he believes coal is a more reliable source of electricity.

“Gas maybe isn’t dependable in extreme weather. … (The) Obama administration rolled back on resurgence of the coal industry.”

McKinley recalled the “polar vortex” that occurred in 2014 as an event that highlighted the need for coal-fired power plants.

“(After the) polar vortex, 22 percent of power plants couldn’t operate and around 55 percent of those were gas-fired. … Are we going to protect our most reliable power plants?”

Last week, McKinley praised U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to overturn the Clean Power Plan, issued by the EPA under former President Barack Obama. The regulation required states to decrease their carbon emissions, but McKinley and other critics of the Clean Power Plan said the rule would threaten the reliability of the electricity grid by making it more difficult to burn coal.

“This administration is keeping their promise to get rid of this key plank in Obama’s war on coal,” McKinley said in a prepared statement last week. “I expect the Trump administration to follow this repeal with a bipartisan plan that, coupled with research, will allow us to utilize coal cleanly and more efficiently than ever before.”

To the Wheeling Rotary Club on Tuesday, McKinley said his No. 1 concern, overall, is jobs.

“We’re talking about taking care of people. I am supportive of wind and solar, but coal is more reliable and needed,” McKinley said.

Also on Tuesday, McKinley addressed the Northern Panhandle HOME Consortium’s 20th-anniversary celebration at Oglebay Park. The HOME Investment Partnership utilizes federal funding to provide assistance to first-time homebuyers.

McKinley, of Wheeling, has been a member of Rotary since 1978 and has represented West Virginia’s First Congressional District since January 2011. He has announced plans to seek re-election in 2018, while two Democrats — Ralph Baxter, also of Wheeling, and Kendra Fershee of Morgantown — thus far have announced plans to seek their party’s nomination for the seat next year.

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