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Getting Serious About Diversifying

We West Virginians love our coal miners. We took the eight-year war on coal by former President Barack Obama personally. Long after many of our fellow Americans decided it was all right to “put a lot of miners and coal companies out of business,” we kept fighting for them.

At the same time, however, we bemoaned our failure for generations to diversify our state’s economy. Now, with the coal industry a shadow of its former self, we have no choice but to do that.

Bills in the state Senate and House of Delegates are aimed at making a small start on that task. If enacted, they would allow the state Public Service Commission to expedite the agency’s process for approving new solar power generation facilities.

The bills would not grant subsidies in any way to the solar power industry. They would provide no tax breaks or other incentives. They would only snip a bit of red tape from the PSC process.

They would allow such expedited treatment for only 400 megawatts of generating capacity — less than 3% of the state’s electricity.

Critics say the bill is a betrayal of the coal industry. It is not. It is simply recognition that whether we like it or not, times have changed.

Development officials say access to solar power is a priority for some high-tech companies. Attracting them is crucial. Even Gov. Jim Justice, a coal operator himself, agrees. If we are serious about diversifying — and we must be — legislators should approve the solar power measure.

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