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Zachary Parsons: You must vote to ax harmful WV leadership (Gazette)

By By Zachary Parsons

West Virginia continues to face economic hardship due to the lack of well-paying jobs.

Despite the inevitable decline in the coal industry and short-lived economic gain from natural gas jobs, our state officials are serving as the mouthpieces to the oil and gas and mining industries. These industries have donated considerable amounts of money to the campaigns of Sen. Joe Manchin III and Sen. Shelley Capito.

West Virginians should know Sen. Manchin received $107,050 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and $147,650 from the mining industry in 2012. Sen. Capito received $111,249 from the mining industry and $45,600 from the oil and gas industry in 2012 during the House of Representatives election prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, in which she received $39,710 from the mining Industry and $81,050 from the oil & gas industry.

It should come as no surprise that our state’s lawmakers were present for the signing of H.J. Resolution 38, which nullified the environmental protections outlined in the Stream Protection Rule.

With the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline expected to begin this fall, it is imperative West Virginians not be deceived by empty or false promises pitched by our state officials while granting corporations to employ any means necessary to extract and transport our state’s fossil fuels.

Recent events in North Dakota and Iowa involving the Dakota Access Pipeline are the result of state officials who prioritize corporate interests over defending the civil rights and liberties of Americans and American Indians.

Award-winning journalist Amy Goodman was covering the Standing Rock protest and caught on camera a force of private security contractors wielding attack dogs and pepper spray as they confronted American-Indian protesters.

The attacks on civil rights and liberties continued when North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple permitted the North Dakota National Guard and law enforcement to be used as a militarized security force for DAPL. Dalrymple, who received $372,455 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in 2012, remained silent on the unlawful use of force against water protectors.

In Iowa, landowners are having their property taken away by Energy Transfer Partners, parent company of DAPL, through the use of eminent domain. Farmland is being destroyed and farmers are not being reimbursed for lost crops. DAPL has violated the terms of the permit agreed to between them and landowners; however, the Iowa Utilities Board and state government are doing nothing to hold them accountable.

Meanwhile, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad received $228,811 in campaign contributions from the oil & gas industry in 2014. Branstad is a close political ally of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also sat on Energy Transfer’s corporate board of directors. Branstad and Perry have been nominated by President Donald Trump to key positions within his administration: Branstad as ambassador to China and Perry as secretary of Energy.

West Virginia’s own pipeline battle is looming on the horizon. Diane Leopold, president and CEO of Dominion Energy, has said she did not anticipate issues with permit approvals from federal, state and local agencies for the pipeline.

The current route would require mountaintops to be reduced by 10 to 60 feet along 38 miles of Appalachian ridges. Appalachian Mountain Advocates argues that mountaintop work will generate “excess spoil,” which will inevitably end up in streams, rivers and lakes, leading to contamination.

Leslie Hartz, vice president of pipeline construction, has stated that eminent domain will be employed, if land owners do not agree to sell.

Dominion has Clean Water Act certifications pending in West Virginia and Virginia. Activists and environmentalists alike should contact West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to oppose approving the certification.

Approximately half of the pipe is coming from South Korea, making it the second pipeline to not use American-produced steel for its construction, despite President Donald Trump’s promise.

Rather than boosting West Virginia’s economy, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will funnel the economic gains to big shareholders and top executives.

West Virginia will continue a vicious cycle of economic uncertainty as long as its representatives continue serving corporate interests. Breaking this cycle depends on electing officials committed to transitioning from the fossil fuel industry to sustainable long-term growth in clean energy that also includes protecting the mountains, forests, streams, lakes and rivers of our wild and wonderful state.

Zachary Parsons, of Morgantown, is a veteran of the West Virginia Army National Guard and has a master’s degree in criminology.

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