www.wvgazettemail.com http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2017, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Funerals for: March 29, 2017 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT01/303299964 OBIT01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT01/303299964 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 Caudill, Maggie Fay 11 a.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Dillion, Mary 1 p.m., at Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin, WV.

Dunlap, Jeffrey 2 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Dunn, Ann 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Buffalo.

Estep, Robert "Bob" Earl 10 a.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Fitzwater, David 2 p.m., Elk Hills Memorial Park.

Fox, Dorothy "Dottie" 1 p.m., Fidler and Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Gardner, John 1 p.m., Rose and Quesenberry Peace Chapel, Beckley.

Garnes, Violet 11 a.m., Casto Funeral Home Chapel, Evans.

Hannah, Phillip 1 p.m., Evans Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Hunter, Phyllis 2 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

McCormick, John 7 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Monk, Gracan "Baby G" Jane 11 a.m., Cunningham

Putnam, Clyde 11 a.m., Braxton Memorial Cemetery, Sutton.

Rulen, Kathleen 12:30 p.m., Beale Cemetery.

Sigmon, William 2 p.m., Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

Spencer, Dana Carol 1 p.m., Beaver Freewill Baptist Church, Craigsville.

Sublette, Dorothy Javins 4 p.m., Cooke Funeral Home, Nitro.

John Babalis http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT/303299995 OBIT http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT/303299995 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 John Alexander Babalis died on February 5, 2017, under the sunny Panama City sky. He lived with the diagnosis of heart failure for over a year.

John was born in Athens, Greece, September 25, 1933. His family immigrated to Roanoke, Va., before moving to Welch, W.Va. John graduated from Welch High School in 1951. He served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1955, and he received the United Nations Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. John received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Morris Harvey College in 1970. Before becoming a broker, John worked in his family's restaurant in Welch. John joined Bache & Company (later Prudential-Bache and then Prudential Securities) in 1965 and worked there for over 25 years. He eventually opened Babalis, John & Co., LLC. John enjoyed travel and he was an avid chess player. He was also an animal lover and advocate, discovering Facebook as a way to help lost pets find homes. John was a lifelong member of the Greek organization, American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association.

Funeral service will be 10 a.m., Friday, March 31, at St. John Greek Orthodox Church, 3512 MacCorkle Avenue SE, Charleston, WV 25301, with the Rev. Fr. Matthew Moore officiating. Burial will follow at Woodlawn Memorial Park, Bluefield.

To leave a condolence, visit http://www.barlowbonsall.com/obituaries-and-condolences2/

Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home, Charleston, has been entrusted with the arrangements.

Rod Bland http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT/303299996 OBIT http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT/303299996 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 Rod Bland, 50, of Charleston, passed away Saturday, March 25, 2017, at home, after a courageous battle with leukemia.

Born May 15, 1966, in Ronceverte, West Virginia, Rod is a graduate of Greenbrier East High School and continued on to receive a degree in Electronic Engineering Technologies. He was an avid sports fan, who loved the game of baseball. He enjoyed making wine and sitting on the beach with his wife and a good book. Rod was actively involved in several community projects that worked to help those in need.

Rod was preceded in death by his father, Chester Bland, and by his father-in-law, Romie "Jay" Hodges. He is survived by his wife and best friend, Joan Barney; his beloved feline companions, Romeo and Reagan; mother, Barbara Bland of Ronceverte; sister, Pam Schroth of Maryland; mother-in-law, Sally Hodges of Charleston; father-in-law/mother-in-law, Jim and Sue Barney of Florida; brothers-in-law, Michael Hodges of Texas, Jay Hodges and Chris Hodges, both of Charleston, and Kendall Coleman of Virginia; and, several nieces, nephews and special friends, who he thought of and loved as his family.

There will be a private family gathering to honor Rod's life at a later time. You may visit AffordableCremationsofWV.com to share memories with the family.

Rod's family is grateful for the condolences received, but Rod asked specifically that flowers be omitted at this time. Instead, he asks you to consider either signing up to be a bone marrow donor; donating blood to the American Red Cross; or sending a monetary donation to the American Cancer Society.

Cremation services are being provided by Affordable Cremations of WV, 413 D Street, South Charleston, W.Va.

Geraldine Bonnett http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT/303299999 OBIT http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT/303299999 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 Geraldine "Dean" Bonnett, 95, formerly of Nitro, died peacefully on Friday, March 3, 2017, in Lawrence-ville, Ga., after a long illness.

She was born in Raymond City to Charles E. Bonnett and Sylvia Casto Bonnett and is survived by her son, Mitchell "Mickey" (Charles Johnson) Lavender of Lawrenceville, and her youngest brother, Ronald R. Bonnett of Nitro.

She was a member of the Valley View Baptist Church in Charleston. Throughout her life, she worked at Dunbar Glass, Nitro Pencil Factory, The Slater Group at FMC and the Kanawha County School System, where she retired from Nitro High School.

She was preceded in death by her sisters, Wanda Steele of Nitro, Pauline Winter of Nitro, Ella "Sissy" Litton of Cross Lanes, Teeny Saunders of Nitro; her brother, James "Sonny" Bonnett of Nitro; and infant brother and sister, Buster and Belboo, both of Raymond City.

A Celebration of Her Life will begin at 11 a.m., Saturday, April 1, at Cooke Funeral in Nitro. Visitation will be one hour prior. Burial will follow at Legacy Cemetery in Tyler Mountain.

In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made in her memory to the Nitro High School Music Department, 1300 Park Avenue, Nitro, WV 25143.

Mary Anne "Sue" Carney http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT/303299967 OBIT http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/OBIT/303299967 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400 Mary Anne "Sue" Carney, 79, formerly of Eleanor, died Tuesday, March 28, 2017. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, March 31, at Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service at the funeral home. A full notice will appear in Thursday's edition.

WV Senate passes bill to help gas industry force drilling on unwilling owners http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329468 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329468 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 17:55:10 -0400 Ken Ward Jr. By Ken Ward Jr. Natural gas producers would be able to force holdout mineral owners to allow drilling, under a controversial industry-backed bill that passed the Senate Wednesday and now heads for the House with a little more than a week left in this year's legislative session.

Senators approved the legislation on a vote of 19-14, after rejecting an amendment aimed at providing due process to unwilling mineral owners by allowing them to appeal to the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to seek "just and reasonable consideration" for their property.

Supporters of Senate Bill 576 say the legislation is needed to spur more development in the state's Marcellus Shale region by allow drillers to more easily put together large gas reservoirs for their operations. Opponents say the bill unfairly takes the mineral property of West Virginians without ensuring much-needed protections for surface landowners and modernizing - increasing - the royalty payments contained in decades-old leases to match the economics of the modern industry.

"We've made billions of dollars for oil and gas companies today - nothing for our citizens, nothing for our state," said Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, who proposed the due process amendment and voted against the bill. "The only difference between the deal we just made and the deal our forefathers made with the coal barons a hundred years ago is that we won't be able to wave at the coal trains as they leave West Virginia."

The bill, the top priority this session for the state's natural gas industry, contains a "co-tenancy" provision that allows drilling over the objections of a co-owner of mineral rights unless that co-owner controls at least 25 percent of the mineral rights. In a separate section for what proponents call "joint development," the bill allows modern horizontal drilling through older leases written when that technology wasn't used, unless those older leases somehow specifically prohibited the practice.

Industry technology has fueled an economic boom in the area, but also created problems for surface owners who worry about damage to their homeplaces and peaceful rural lifestyle. The drilling boom also has generated conflicts between gas companies and mineral owners over how the wealth created is being divided.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, described the legislation as imperative for the gas industry and said his committee worked hard to provide protections for land and mineral owners. But Trump also said it's not fair for co-owners of small portions of mineral tracts to be able to block the majority owners from selling their gas.

"Our law is that one fractional interest can stop everyone else, and it's not fair," Trump said. "Those formations hold for West Virginia the promise of jobs and prosperity for which we could only have dreamed 10 or 15 years ago."

Two years ago, a bill with similar goals - it was referred to then as the "forced pooling" bill, a name supporters are trying to avoid this session - died on the last night of the session in a rare tie vote, with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans opposing it as a violation of private property rights.

Several bills with similar goals have been tossed around this session, but using somewhat different tools and labels than the "forced pooling" bill that went down in 2015. Efforts to work out a compromise among a collection of various parties with both conflicting and overlapping interests in the matter fell apart. Last week, the current version of the bill emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee just two days after hundreds of oil and gas workers attended a rally on the Capitol steps, during which industry lobbyists promoted what they say is their need for the legislation.

Four Democrats - Sens. Palumbo, Plymale, Prezioso, and Woelfel - voted with 15 Republicans for passage of the bill. Six Republicans - Sens. Azinger, Boley, Gaunch, Mann, Smith and Sypolt - voted with eight Democrats against the bill.

Republicans voting for the bill were Sens. Blair, Boso, Clements, Cline, Ferns, Hall, Karnes, Maroney, Maynard, Mullins, Swope, Takubo, Trump, Weld, and Carmichael. Democrats voting against it were Sens. Beach, Facemire, Jeffries, Miller, Ojeda, Romano, Stollings, and Unger. Sen. Rucker, a Republican, was absent.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

Brits file to end 44-year EU membership http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ01/170329469 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ01/170329469 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 17:44:40 -0400 By Jill Lawless and Raf Casert The Associated Press By By Jill Lawless and Raf Casert The Associated Press LONDON - Britain filed for divorce from the European Union on Wednesday, with fond words and promises of friendship that could not disguise the historic nature of the schism - or the years of argument and hard-nosed bargaining ahead as the U.K. leaves the embrace of the bloc for an uncertain future as "global Britain."

Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the two-year divorce process in a six-page letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk, vowing that Britain will maintain a "deep and special partnership" with its neighbors in the bloc. In response, Tusk told Britain: "We already miss you."

May's invocation of Article 50 of the EU's key treaty, which states, "Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements," sets the clock ticking on two years of negotiations until Britain becomes the first major nation to leave the union - as Big Ben bongs midnight on March 29, 2019.

The U.K.'s departure could not come at a worse time for the EU, which has grown from six founding members six decades ago to a vast, largely borderless span of 28 nations and half a billion people. Nationalist and populist parties are on the march across the continent in revolt against the bloc's mission of an "ever-closer union." And President Donald Trump has derided the EU, NATO and other pillars of Western order built up since World War II.

"This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back," May told lawmakers in the House of Commons, moments after her letter was hand-delivered to Tusk in Brussels by Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow.

In the letter, May said the two sides should "engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation."

But for all the warmth, the next two years will be a tough test of the notion that divorcees can remain good friends.

May is under pressure from her Conservative Party and Britain's largely Euroskeptic press not to concede too much in exchange for a good trade deal with the EU. For their part, the other 27 members of the bloc will need to stick together and stand firm as they ride out the biggest threat in the union's history.

The British exit, or Brexit, has been hailed by populists across Europe - including French far-right leader Marine Le Pen - who hope the U.K. is only the first in a series of departures. EU leaders are determined to stop that happening.

"The European Union is a historically unique success story," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin. "It remains one, even after Britain's withdrawal. We will take care of that."

Britons voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favor of leaving the bloc in a referendum nine months ago, and they remain divided over Brexit.

In the pro-Brexit heartland of Dover, on England's south coast - whose white cliffs face toward France - some were jubilant as May pulled the trigger.

"I'm a local church minister, and I said to my wife, 'All I want to do before I die is see my country free from the shackles of Europe,' " 70-year-old Mike Piper said while buying a copy of the Sun tabloid with the front-page headline "Dover and Out."

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who campaigned for years to take Brexit from a fringe cause to a reality, said Britain has passed "the point of no return."

"I can still, to be honest with you, scarcely believe today has come," he said.

But many young Britons - who have grown up in the EU and voted overwhelmingly for Britain to remain a member - worry about how much they could lose.

"I'm really anxious about it. It was a bad idea," said Elaine Morrison, an 18-year-old who was traveling to Barcelona with friends. "I like traveling to other countries, and it will be a trouble now. The pound is weaker, so it will cost more to buy the euros, and the costs of travel will be more expensive. And there will be red tape."

People in London's financial district, the City, were anxious about the uncertainty.

"No one knows how this is going to go," said City worker Nicola Gibson. "It's a gamble; it's a risk."

May's letter to Tusk was conciliatory, stressing that Britons want to remain "committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent."

But there was a hint of steel in May's assertion that, without a good deal, "our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened."

That could be seen by some in Europe as a threat to withdraw British security cooperation if the U.K. does not get its way.

European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt responded diplomatically: "I cannot, as a gentleman, even imagine that a lady, as Mrs. May, is using blackmail, is thinking of blackmail."

Tusk said he will respond by Friday with draft negotiating guidelines for the remaining 27 member states to consider. They'll meet April 29 to finalize their platform. Talks between the EU's chief negotiator, French diplomat Michel Barnier, and his British counterpart, Brexit Secretary David Davis, are likely to start in the second half of May.

As in many divorces, the first area of conflict is likely to be money. The EU wants Britain to pay a bill of as much as $63 billion, to cover pension liabilities for EU staff and other commitments the U.K. has agreed to.

Britain acknowledges that it will have to pay something, but is sure to quibble over the size of the tab. May did not indicate Wednesday how much Britain would be willing to pay, saying only that it will no longer pay "significant sums of money on an annual basis" to the EU.

But, May added: "We're a law-abiding nation. We will meet obligations that we have."

Negotiations also soon will hit a major contraction: Britain wants to strike "a bold and ambitious free-trade agreement" with the bloc of 500 million people, but says it will restore control of immigration, ending the right of EU citizens to live and work in Britain. The EU says Britain can't have full access to the single market if it doesn't accept free movement, one of the bloc's key principles.

Both sides say a top priority will be guaranteeing the rights of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain, and 1 million Britons living elsewhere in the bloc. In her letter, May said, "We should aim to strike an early agreement about their rights" - but, for now, they remain in limbo.

The two sides also appear to disagree on how the talks will unfold. EU officials say the divorce terms must be settled before negotiators can turn to the U.K.'s future relationship with the bloc, while Britain wants the two things discussed simultaneously.

Britain wants to seal a new trade deal within two years, but Verhofstadt told The Associated Press there would have to be a further transition period of "no more than three years, to discuss, to detail the content of this future."

A final deal must be approved by the British and European parliaments - and Verhofstadt said EU lawmakers "will use our veto power," if they do not like the outcome.

Brexit has profound implications for Britain's economy, society and unity. The decision has given new impetus to the drive for Scottish independence and shaken the foundations of Northern Ireland's peace settlement. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who says the Brexit vote means Scotland should get a referendum on independence, accused May of making "a reckless gamble."

But anti-EU politicians saluted Wednesday as the day Britain regained its sovereignty from Brussels bureaucrats.

"If you've been locked inside a dark and cramped dungeon, and you step out into sunlight, it's going to be a bit intimidating," pro-Brexit lawmaker Douglas Carswell said. "We, as a country, have got to rediscover the art of self-governance."

WV House votes to sell Hopemont Hospital http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329470 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329470 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 17:23:27 -0400 Jake Zuckerman By Jake Zuckerman The House of Delegates voted Wednesday to begin the process of selling Hopemont Hospital in Preston County.

Without a legislator to spare, HB 3102 passed via a 51-49 decision. Following the roll call, Wednesday's legislation will join a similar bill passed by the House last week to divest from Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley.

Both bills are still pending approval from the Senate and the Governor.

According to House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, Wednesday's bill will give the Secretary of Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch latitude to find a buyer for the hospital. He will also be responsible for ensuring patient transfer to area hospitals, and working with the Division of Personnel to minimize employee effects or issue severance packages.

Nelson said the facility is 104 years old, costs the state $4.5 million annually, and that the run-down facility has been understaffed and underpopulated for years.

Although the House approved the sale of Jackie Withrow hospital with a more comfortable 58-41 spread, several delegates criticized the bill Wednesday regarding Hopemont for its lack of specificity regarding how the sale will work. The Jackie Withrow bill also did not lay out a specific plan.

Del. Terri Sypolt, R-Preston, said though the Hopemont bill requires the state to transfer patients to a nearby facility, it doesn't specify which one or how far, meaning they could potentially be put anywhere in the state.

“When it says, 'a new facility could be in the area,' with 'area' not defined, that also means that could be very broad and area could mean anywhere in the state,” he said.

Nelson conceded the point and said it's up to the Secretary of the DHHR's interpretation.

Along with Sypolt, Del. Linda Longstreth, D-Marion, said given the risk in firing state employees and a lapse in patient care, the state should have a plan before the bill is passed.

“There's no guarantee it's going to be put in that area, we don't know if the patients are going to go from Preston County down to Raleigh County – we don't know because there is no up-front plan,” she said.

Closing the discussion before the vote, Nelson said although there is no plan yet, the bill still requires Crouch to come up with one and present it to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance along with a government oversight committee before taking action.

He said the bill is a move toward improving patient care.

“This is just a vehicle to help improve the area up there to better treat those that need the treatment,” he said.

Between the two bills to begin the process of selling the hospitals, 15 legislators changed their votes.

Along with Jackie Withrow and Hopemont, Crouch has said in the past he would like to see legislation in the future divesting the state from other aging hospitals it owns.

Del. Lynn Arvon, R-Raleigh, voted against selling Jackie Withrow Hospital, which is in her district, but in favor of selling Hopemont Hospital.

“I know it needs to be done for all four, but Jackie Withrow is in my district, I know people who work there, and I know patients there,” she said in a follow-up interview.

Arvon continued that she's likely to vote in favor of selling any more state-run facilities.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5149, or @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

PSC approves Appalachian Power's wind energy purchase http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ03/170329471 GZ03 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ03/170329471 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 17:15:42 -0400 Max Garland By Max Garland Appalachian Power has added more wind energy to its portfolio, after the state Public Service Commission approved the utility's request to buy additional power generation from an Indiana wind farm.

Appalachian Power will purchase 120 megawatts of wind power from energy company NextEra's Bluff Point Wind Energy Center, which is projected to be in operation by 2018.

The PSC said "it is just, reasonable, and in the public interest" for Appalachian Power to enter into the purchase agreement in its order filed Tuesday.

The PSC said Appalachian Power can seek recovery of purchase costs through an expanded net energy cost proceeding, which could contribute to a customer rate increase.

However, Appalachian Power spokeswoman Jeri Matheney said the purchase is expected to save customers money because of tax credits and other benefits in using wind energy.

"Over the 20 years of the agreement, costs are forecasted to be lower than they would be without the agreement," she said in an email.

The independent PSC staff backed Appalachian Power and recommended the PSC approve the purchase, primarily due to the tax credits Matheney cited and avoiding carbon regulations.

This is despite Randall Short, deputy director of the PSC utilities division, saying in testimony that there is a "very small" margin of error in the company's confidential projections of wind energy market prices. If the market falters, customers would be 100 percent responsible for the costs in the 20-year agreement between Appalachian and NextEra.

The West Virginia Energy Users Group and the Consumer Advocate Division expressed similar concerns that customers could be locked into higher bills in testimony filed with the PSC earlier this year.

"I believe that this allocation of 100 percent of the risk [to customers] is at best questionable, if not unreasonable," said Stephen Baron, a utility consultant representing the WVEUG, in testimony.

Baron said Appalachian Power should take on 20 percent of the purchase responsibility to alleviate these concerns.

John Scalzo, Appalachian Power's director of regulatory services for West Virginia, said in rebuttal testimony that the 20 percent Baron proposed seemed arbitrary and "does not accord well with [Appalachian Power's] obligations as a West Virginia public utility."

The primary driver behind the purchase is the company experiencing an energy shortfall, according to Scalzo. He said it needs to make up the deficit accumulated by purchasing energy from the PJM Interconnection, an organization that monitors the regional energy marketplace.

Scalzo said although customers would bear the risk, the cost is likely to be less than purchasing power on the PJM marketplace. Wind energy production is particularly vital in the winter, when the marketplace is at its most volatile, he added.

The WVEUG said it doesn't oppose this particular agreement, but may object to similar transactions in the future.

"Our concerns continue to be with the inability and unwillingness of [Appalachian Power] to accept any risks in projects such as this," said Barry Naum, an attorney representing the WVEUG, in a PSC hearing.

The CAD shared similar sentiments in the hearing, adding that Appalachian Power's market projections being confidential made evaluating the necessity of the purchase difficult.

"Certainly, we would ask and we would expect that our position in not opposing Staff's position and the acceptance of the Bluff Point project not be accepted as any sort of precedent," said Heather Osborn, an attorney representing the CAD.

Outside of Bluff Point, Appalachian Power has 376 megawatts of wind power through existing purchase agreements. The company is looking to add more capacity from solar and wind sources in the coming years, as indicated by its integrated resource plan filed in 2015.

Reach Max Garland at max.garland@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.

Hoppy Kercheval: President Trump ends the 'war on coal' (Daily Mail) http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/DM0404/170329472 DM0404 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/DM0404/170329472 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 18:00:00 -0400 President Donald Trump failed in his attempt to fulfill a campaign promise to replace Obamacare, but he has made good on his pledge to get the Environmental Protection Agency's foot off the throat of the coal industry.

Tuesday, the president signed an executive order undoing former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan.

"My administration is putting an end to the war on coal," he said, making sure to repeatedly give credit to Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who was in the room for the signing. Credit also goes to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his team who have led the legal challenge against the EPA's unilateral attack on fossil fuels.

Coal detractors attacked Trump's actions with the now-familiar "flat earth" harangue. "The president fails to realize that climate change is not just a vague, distant concept," said Florida Democratic representative Ted Deutch. "I hope the president invested in flood insurance, because when Mar-a-Lago is underwater, he will have himself to blame."

Rational minds will not question that the climate is changing and that human activity impacts the climate, but there remains reasonable debate, as well as ongoing research, as to the extent of that impact.

Additionally, by the EPA's own admission, the Clean Power Plan's limits on carbon emissions would reduce global temperatures by less than 0.01 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

Meanwhile, the less dramatic but critical issue associated with the CPP is the fundamental legal question of whether the EPA has the authority to remake the country's energy policy and practices.

The U.S. Supreme Court clearly has questions, since the high court last year granted a stay in the implementation of the CPP until the legal challenges are settled.

The court's consideration is likely moot now with the president's action, but it's worth reviewing Morrisey's argument for the stay to understand the potential consequences of the CPP. "And parties on all sides agree that the Plan is currently forcing businesses to shutter [power] plants and make other decisions with long-term and fundamental impacts on energy markets, further compounding the injury to the States as market regulators and energy consumers."

As Morrisey and others have argued, the rarely used provision of the Clean Air Act that calls for the "best system of emission reduction" was never intended as carte blanche for the EPA's attempt to exercise authority over all of the states and their power production.

The overreach was clear from the very beginning, but the EPA and environmentalists hoped the agency's power grab would put coal in a death spiral before the courts caught up or there was a change in administrations.

Trump's action does not mean coal will come roaring back. Hydraulic fracturing is making massive supplies of cheap natural gas available, while alternative fuels are becoming more commercially viable and, in some cases, preferable to energy consumers.

But at least coal, which remains vital to West Virginia's economy, can rise or fall based on market conditions rather than the zealotry of unelected bureaucrats.

Hoppy Kercheval is host of Talkline, broadcast statewide by the MetroNews Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays. Listen locally on WCHS 580 AM.

Bruce Berry: Public higher education should serve the public interest (Daily Mail) http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/DM0403/170329473 DM0403 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/DM0403/170329473 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 16:51:38 -0400 West Virginia's higher education system is structured to allow for the kind of statewide outreach that supports students as they prepare for college.

Students like Boone County native Ikie Brooks, who participated in the Higher Education Policy Commission's federally-funded GEAR UP program beginning in the seventh-grade. Ikie lost his father after years of substance abuse and saw his mother battle addiction as well.

Today, Ikie is a junior at Marshall University studying political science - and he hopes to use his experiences to help more young people go to college and better their own lives.

Our system was also structured wisely by the Legislature to ensure checks and balances for the benefit of the state and our students.

On a state operating budget of only $2.8 million, the commission provides essential services and creates opportunities for West Virginia students. The Commission generates tens of millions of dollars in federal and private grants in line with our overall mission of seeing more West Virginians go to college, complete their degrees and meet our state's workforce needs.

In fact, the commission's small staff has generated $50 million over the past eight years for programs, including GEAR UP - an amount that far eclipses our state appropriation.

We help students access, afford and complete postsecondary education through the administration of financial aid programs, outreach events and initiatives, and degree completion programs.

We also act within our limited statutory authority to provide oversight that ensures the accountability and efficiency of West Virginia's public higher education system. We provide shared services - from financial aid to human resources and legal - that result in proven efficiencies for campuses.

While we understand the dire budget situation Gov. Jim Justice and the Legislature are grappling with, we strongly encourage any discussions about restructuring higher education to include two fundamental questions:

Will restructuring help students and preserve college access and affordability?

Will restructuring reduce our state's budget gap and protect the taxpayers' investment?

There is a proposal in the Legislature now that I believe fails to consider these questions.

House Bill 2815 would exempt our state's largest public institutions - those that receive the majority of public higher education funding - from a significant amount oversight and accountability.

Under this legislation, West Virginia University, Marshall and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine would continue receiving a combined $260 million each year from the state, while virtually all accountability they owe to the taxpayers that support them would be removed.

Are there any other state entities that receive such a large amount of public investment without state oversight?

The Higher Education Policy Commission is a coordinating board, not a governing board. It is important to draw the distinction between oversight and governance.

Institutions already have vast local control through their individual governing boards. And WVU and Marshall have even more freedoms than other institutions.

The role of the commission is, quite simply, to ensure that the public's investment in higher education is wisely spent, that students are always top priority and that the state is moving forward in educating more of its citizens in this evolving economy.

How can we continue carrying forward in addressing these goals and concerns if institutions can raise tuition by as much as 21 percent in three years - on even our neediest students - without state approval?

That question is especially important when you look at tuition revenues as compared to budget reductions for our two largest universities.

At WVU and its campuses, budget reductions between 2013-16 total $21.8 million, but revenues from tuition increases during that time total $52.4 million.

At Marshall, budget reductions for that same period were $8.5 million, while tuition increase revenues were nearly $22 million.

Are we willing to sacrifice these institutions' accountability - when hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent - in the name of independence and local control?

How can we ensure continued checks and balances, especially when this legislation would allow these three schools to select any president for any salary with no state review?

And I would strongly ask the question: What have these three institutions not been able to achieve with state oversight?

This legislation would create an untenable environment that would begin to reverse the progress we're making for the benefit of students and our state's goals for higher education. And it would remove the state's ability to oversee an enormous public investment.

If this isn't about saving state money or filling a budget hole, and if it isn't about protecting our students' best interests, what is it about?

I pose these questions as a volunteer board member, and as a citizen concerned about keeping higher education accessible and affordable in West Virginia.

Asking these questions is important because the careers of thousands of students - students like Ikie - will be adversely affected if tuition increases of 21 percent occur in the next three years.

Bruce Berry, M.D., is chairman of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and earned bachelor's, master's and medical degrees from WVU.

Bill requiring asset test for food-stamp recipients heads to WV House http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329474 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329474 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 16:30:27 -0400 Lori Kersey By Lori Kersey The state Senate has passed a bill that would, among other things, require an asset test for food-stamp recipients. Senate bill 60 has been referred to the House Health committee and then to House Judiciary committee.

The bill would limit assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to households with less than $2,000 in assets or $3,000 for households with elderly and disabled people.

The asset test would take into account a household's bank account, lottery and gambling income, cash, real estate, and personal property.

Exceptions would be made for retirement accounts, one vehicle and the household's primary residence and surrounding lot, according to the legislation.

The Senate passed the bill Tuesday afternoon with 21 voting in favor, 12 opposed and one senator absent.

Sen. Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, the lead sponsor of the bill, told the Gazette-Mail earlier this month that he doesn't want to eliminate food assistance for people who actually need it. The goal of the bill is to "ferret" out those who don't need it, he said.

In urging the bill's passage Tuesday, Gaunch told the Senate he wants to preserve valuable federal dollars for those in West Virginia who need it the most.

Opponents of the bill say it would punish poor people for attempting to save money and would further perpetuate the cycle of poverty in West Virginia.

In the Mountain State, around 350,000 residents or one in five people are on SNAP at any given time, said Seth DiStefano, campaign manager for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a progressive think tank. The bill would require an asset test not only for the SNAP recipient, but for every member of the person's household, DiStefano said. The bill would especially hurt seniors, who have worked their whole lives and saved money, but in retirement are relying on Social Security and food stamps, he said. The bill would require them to spend down their savings or be in eligible for food assistance.

"We will not break the cycle of poverty by passing laws that discourage people from saving money," he said.

DiStefano said the only food stamp fraud he's aware of has been on the side of retailers, not beneficiaries. The bill does nothing to cut back on retail food stamp fraud, he said. He cited a recent case in Huntington, where the owners of a gas station are accused of exchanging cash for a portion of the value of at least $5,000 in SNAP benefit cards, the Herald-Dispatch reported.

"There's nothing in the bill that deals with the provider side," DiStefano said. "Nothing at all. It all comes down on the people."

Another section of the bill allows the Department of Health and Human Resources to contract with a third-party vendor to develop a system to verify income, assets and eligibility of those who apply for public assistance, including SNAP, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). The bill says the vendor should save the state more money than it costs it or the contract for the system should not be renewed, essentially ensuring that the vendor would need to eliminate enough people from the public assistance to cover the cost of its contract, he said.

DiStefano said besides the budget bill, SB60 would affect the most amount of people.

"People need to be paying attention," he said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1240 or follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

House OKs plan to use drug settlement funds to add beds at treatment centers http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329475 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329475 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 16:06:00 -0400 Eric Eyre By Eric Eyre West Virginia lawmakers moved a step closer Wednesday with their plan to seize $24 million in recent drug lawsuit settlement funds and use the money to add beds at drug treatment facilities across the state.

The House of Delegates voted unanimously to pass a bill (HB 2428) that directs the state Department of Health and Human Resources to make extra treatment beds available by July 2018. The $24 million from recent settlements with drug wholesalers Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen would be placed in a special account called the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention Recovery Fund - named after a Charleston man who died of a heroin overdose nearly three years ago.

"They need treatment, and we don't have the facilities to do it," said Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton. "This starts the ball rolling."

House leaders said the DHHR could decide to build a new drug treatment center, add beds at existing state-run facilities or contract with privately owned facilities. Under the bill, the facilities would offer long-term substance abuse treatment and work with drug courts.

West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, and fatal overdoses reached a record number last year.

"In my area, drugs have become an absolute scourge," said Delegate Ed Evans, D-McDowell. "They are ruining families, decimating our economy, putting young people in jail and on and on."

The House-approved bill doesn't require the DHHR to provide a specific number of treatment beds. The initial bill stipulated 600 beds, with 100 of those designated for Wood County.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office, the DHHR and the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (DMAPS) each received $8 million from the January settlement with the drug wholesalers. Morrisey put his share in his office's consumer protection account. DHHR and DMAPS placed their settlement monies in a special account at the State Auditor's office.

Earlier this month, those two agencies announced plans to set up a grant program to distribute the money for drug treatment, prevention and enforcement measures. The agencies were putting the finishing touches on grant application procedures.

DHHR officials said they're still reviewing the ramifications of the House bill. A Boone County Circuit Court order stipulated that the agencies would control the funds and use them as they see fit.

According to the bill, the DHHR must provide treatment beds only at facilities that accept Medicaid patients and give preference to West Virginia residents.

"This bill is the next piece of the puzzle," said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. "This will give us the additional facilities and beds we need to provide hope and treatment opportunities to our fellow West Virginians who are desperately seeking help to combat their addictions."

Also Wednesday, the House passed a bill (HB 2195) that requires county school boards to establish comprehensive drug awareness and prevention programs for students.

The bills next move to the Senate.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @ericeyre on Twitter.

Froma Harrop: Carmakers, don't pick a fight with California (Gazette) http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ04/170329477 GZ04 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ04/170329477 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:41:33 -0400 News flash: The Obama-era fuel-economy standards would add $875 to the average price of a new vehicle. But proposed border taxes or other tariffs on Mexican imports would add $2,000. President Donald Trump wants a weaker mandate on mileage, and he also wants the tariffs.

Digest those numbers when assessing Trump's claim to be helping U.S. carmakers control their manufacturing costs. As for that $875 for new technology, drivers would save three times as much at the pump over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Trump has ordered a review of the rule that new cars and light trucks must achieve a real-world average of 36 miles per gallon, up from today's 25 miles, by 2025. It's true that lower gas prices have spurred demand for larger vehicles that burn more fuel, but no one seriously argues that the tighter standards are not attainable.

Rather, this would seem part and parcel of Trump's general contempt for environmental protections - especially any related to climate change. Transportation is the largest source of planet-warming gases in the U.S. Trump says this deregulation is all about the economy and jobs.

A warming climate, meanwhile, could put Southern Florida and much of the East and Gulf coasts under water. It could lead to more devastating droughts inland. And if temperatures continue their rise, a heat wave in 2030 could kill 11,000 Americans, according to scientists. Consider what these disaster-movie events might do to the Dow Jones Industrial average.

U.S. automakers have made enormous strides raising mileage, including on trucks and SUVs. Do they want to blow all that goodwill and respect by going to war with California, their biggest car market? For that will surely happen if Trump does what he'd have to do to truly lower fuel-economy standards.

Some background: For historic reasons, California has a right to set its own standards. Trump could instruct the head of his Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, to pull the federal government waivers that let California go its own way. That would not happen without a fight: Right after Trump announced plans to lower the standards, California finalized new vehicle emissions rules roughly along the lines of Obama's.

When you pick a fight with California on emissions, you're also picking a fight with the 12 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have adopted California's rules. We're talking nearly 35 percent of the U.S. car market.

Then there are the nine states that follow California's mandate for selling more "zero-emissions vehicles." Without it, the market for U.S. electric cars would freeze.

Other countries are setting rules for tighter fuel efficiency. California would actually be doing the industry a favor by pushing it to make products more competitive in other markets.

Carmakers should stop their boohooing over how the more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards are all but bankrupting them and hurting their workers. "On the contrary," a recent editorial in Automotive News stated, "the latest CAFE round has coincided with rather robust growth in jobs, sales, profits, horsepower and fuel economy."

One more point. There's not been enough discussion on how Mexican and U.S. factories complement one another in the production of cars. Lower-wage Mexican workers tend to do the labor-intensive tasks, helping manufacturers keep the prices of their products in check. This shared manufacturing protects the jobs of Americans doing the higher-skilled jobs. Populists on the Democratic side, please take note.

The public wants cars that are technologically cool and Earth-friendly. In this, California is the spokes-state for the desires of over a third of the U.S. car market. California is not the enemy. If automakers make it one, they will lose.

Froma Harrop is a columnist for The Providence Journal.

Christopher Regan: Your land is their land (Gazette) http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0405/170329479 GZ0405 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0405/170329479 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 17:45:00 -0400 By Christopher Regan By By Christopher Regan

After the disastrous ending to WVU's terrific men's basketball season, I turned off the TV in disgust. The tape will show that Nathan Adrian was fouled. A tournament that had been marred by poor officiating had come to an end for a great West Virginia team.

But while most West Virginians mourned the loss to Gonzaga, a small group of us stayed busy. The Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee of the state Senate worked into the wee hours last Friday morning. What could have inspired them to stay at work so late, after such a big game?

It wouldn't be something they wanted to take credit for - if it was that they'd have done it in broad daylight, with TV cameras, ribbon cuttings, and press releases. It must have been something they did not want West Virginians to see. The legislation passed out of committee under cover of darkness, near the dark of the moon, and in the fog of an NCAA tournament hangover.

The bill was, of course, forced pooling.

"Forced pooling" has been the apple of the gas companies' eyes since the shale gas boom began. In the simplest terms, forced pooling means that if you own land and the rights to the minerals underneath, and you don't want to sell, tough. The company can take it.

Your land is their land, it isn't your land.

Once the gas company has made a "reasonable effort to negotiate" with you, they can run you over and take what they want and pay you what someone else thinks is fair. This is done to "[e]ncourage the maximum recovery of oil and gas." No doubt it will also "encourage the payment of campaign contributions" to the lawmakers who shove it through.

Of course, this doesn't work in reverse. If the gas company owns something you want, you can't just make a "reasonable effort to negotiate" with them, and when they won't give, you get to take it. This forced pooling law passed late at night is a special privilege for the gas companies, not for regular people. This law is their law, it isn't your law.

What can we say about politicians that give away our most sacred rights to corporations? Didn't they campaign on the Constitution? Aren't they supposed to be protecting the citizens of this state - the voters who let them have their positions in government? What happened to all that freedom we were supposed to get?

The gas industry has made billions since the shale boom started. The only downside for them appears to be having to deal with the common landowners and negotiate a price before they could drill. If people didn't want to sell, they didn't have to, because people used to have rights to do what they wanted with their own property. Some chose to sell, others didn't - that's the American Way.

But the American Way isn't good enough for corporate America - they want it their way, all the way, every time. To get it, they elected a gaggle of Republicans willing to put in laws that let them take what they want from people who don't want to sell it. The law calls those people "nonconsenting co-tenants."

You used to be a citizen, a landowner, and an American. Now you're just a "nonconsenting co-tenant," standing in the way of what the gas company wants - your gas. And the gas company will fix you up good - armed with their new law, they take what they want and if you try to stop them, they'll bring the judge and the sheriff down on top of you.

Our rights to our own property trace their heritage all the way back to England and the Magna Carta. A man's home was his castle, and as William Pitt put it:

"The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail - its roof may shake - the wind may blow through it - the storm may enter - the rain may enter - but the King of England cannot enter - all his force dares not cross the threshold ..."

So much for that. The King of England and William Pitt didn't know regular people might own valuable shale gas. So now the Kings in Charleston are putting a stop to the "defiant" West Virginians. They are slapping an "open for business" sign on those humble cottages. The new rule is that the powerful gas companies can take what they want from citizens, who are now reduced to the peon-like status of "nonconsenting co-tenants."

The only way to fight this kind of law is at the ballot box. Everybody owns something, even if it's not valuable mineral rights. The politicians who don't respect your property can't be allowed to stay in office - and before anyone asks me, yes, that goes for Democrats as well as Republicans who sign on to this thievery. If they'll force you to sell your land, nothing you own, and nothing your neighbors own is safe.

Write down the name of every one of them that votes for this bill, and remember it in 18 months when we get another chance to vote. Then vote against them no matter what. That's how we can tell the politicians what they need to hear: this land is our land.

Christopher Regan is the former vice-chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party and an attorney at Bordas & Bordas in Wheeling, WV. He blogs at HomeYesterday.com.

This Army veteran served his country. Will his undocumented wife be deported? http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329480 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329480 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:30:36 -0400 By THERESA VARGAS The Washington Post By By THERESA VARGAS The Washington Post WASHINGTON - Ricardo Pineda was hesitant to wear his uniform.

Two years had passed since he had served in the Army. Then again, so much was at stake, and the disabled veteran knew the uniform would leave no confusion about who he was: a man who had been willing to die for this country and now needed help to keep his family living in it.

Pineda straightened the nameplate on his dress blues one day last month and entered a room in the Rayburn House Office Building, where he took a seat at a wooden table with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. His wife, Veronica Castro, stood behind him in a red blouse, and next to her, with his hair buzzed military short like his father's, sat their son Juan, a 17-year-old who suffered brain damage during heart surgery as a toddler.

When Pineda's turn came to speak, he told the lawmakers about his family's precarious situation.

On April 4, Castro will walk into an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Baltimore, and she doesn't know if she will be allowed to return home to her husband and their four children, who are all U.S. citizens.

Castro, who twice entered the country illegally from Mexico, has faced these check-ins since 2011. But this one is different, she said. This is the 38-year-old's first appointment with ICE since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, whose aggressive stance on illegal immigration has widened the pool of those vulnerable to deportation, making the routine check-ins that thousands of immigrants face each year feel more fraught - even for a military veteran's wife.

"I totally depend on my wife, 100 percent," Pineda, 47, told the lawmakers. "My son totally depends on her."

After the meeting, some of the caucus's members posted support for military families on social media. Several, including Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Ruben Gallego, both Arizona Democrats, have introduced legislation in the House that would help prevent the deportation of service members convicted of certain crimes and permit some to return to the United States. But none of the proposals would help their relatives.

Pineda left the meeting with little hope, he said. Although he had been a soldier for six years and had dressed the part that day, he didn't know whether this was a fight he could win.

It is unclear how many veterans or their relatives have been deported or are in deportation proceedings. ICE officials said they don't keep track.

But one deported veteran, Hector Barajas-Varela, runs a small shelter called "The Bunker" in Tijuana, Mexico, for others who have lost the right to live in the United States because of drug convictions or other crimes. Although he has housed 20 deported veterans since 2013, Barajas said he has made contact with a total of 311 who have been returned to 36 countries.

Emma Lozano, a Chicago church pastor, began helping service members and their families with deportation cases three years ago after she noticed men in U.S. military uniforms during a trip to Mexico. She attended the Congressional Hispanic Caucus meeting on Feb. 7 and plans to return to Washington on April 4 for Castro's ICE check-in.

"It's just so blatantly wrong," Lozano said. "Everywhere you go, they're talking about we have to honor our veterans. Then they are doing this to veterans and military families."

Lozano has fought to keep Miguel Perez Jr., who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and suffered a brain injury in an explosion there, from being deported. In 2010, Perez was convicted of selling more than two pounds of cocaine. This month, an immigration judge in Chicago ordered the father of two U.S.-born children to be removed to Mexico, the country he left when he was 8. Perez is appealing the deportation order.

Sarah Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for ICE, said the agency "respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving veterans." At the same time, she said, the law requires ICE to detain and deport anyone convicted of aggravated felonies.

Trump has vowed to ramp up deportations, especially of people convicted of crimes: "We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before."

Castro's attorney, Joshua Doherty, who works for the nonprofit group Ayuda, said the enforcement changes under Trump have made it much more ambiguous whether an immigration officer will take into consideration Castro's role as a military wife and the mother of two children with disabilities. In addition to Juan, the couple's 14-year-old son Kevin has cerebral palsy.

Doherty said on the day of her appointment, Castro could be sent on her way and told to call if she moves; she could be given her next check-in date; she could be ordered to come back later with her bags packed for Mexico; or she could be detained on the spot.

Asked about Castro's situation, ICE officials said deportation decisions are made on "a case-by-case basis."

If his wife gets deported, Pineda said he has decided to move the entire family to Mexico, even as he worries about the consequences. He knows Juan will need more heart surgeries as he grows and wouldn't receive the same medical services there. The couple's other children, who don't speak fluent Spanish and know little about Mexico, are showing signs of depression. Ivan, 19, and Emily, 11, barely speak. Kevin recently asked his parents to renew his expired passport in case someone "tries to kick him out."

"I think there should be some humanity," Pineda said. "I swore to protect this nation and asking for a little bit of protection for my family, I don't think that is too much to ask for."

Pineda apologizes before guests walk through the front door of the family's mobile home in Lothian, Maryland.

When he received an honorable discharge for medical reasons in 2014, the family had to leave its five-bedroom house at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia. The trailer and lot is all they can afford on Pineda's $2,250-a-month veteran's benefits, he said. Their three sons share a bedroom, the fire detector goes off every time the dryer is on, and each room is filled with reminders of repairs Pineda can no longer easily make: a curtain standing in for a bathroom door, a broken shower, bowed floorboards outside the front door.

Pineda was a carpenter before he was a soldier. Now, he can't wield a hammer without pain. He cracked the bone at the base of his thumb during a combat training exercise in Richmond, Virginia, and a surgery left him with limited ability to move that finger.

"This is the most important finger of all," Pineda said, pointing his thumb upward. "This is what makes us different from monkeys."

Pineda was 39 when he joined the army, older than most recruits but healthy enough to pass all the medical tests and compete with men half his age in boot camp. Now, he takes a half-dozen medications a day and has appointments at VA medical centers twice a week. Sometimes for his hand. Other times for diabetes and depression.

He was stationed in South Korea for more than a year and said the stress wore on his health. He not only had to worry about the threat in front of him but also what could go wrong back home. Juan landed in the hospital four times during his father's deployment. Castro, unable to get a Virginia driver's license because of her immigration status, pushed their son's wheelchair about 30 minutes each way from their home to the grocery store.

"I kept thinking if my husband is carrying a backpack with a rifle, I can do this," she said in Spanish.

Ret. Sgt. Major Gabriel Berhane, who was Pineda's commanding officer at Fort Belvoir, said he was disappointed to see Pineda leave the Army.

"I can't say enough good things about him," he said. "Always, you could count on him, regardless what the task, what the mission was, he'd give it 100 percent plus."

Berhane, who works at the Pentagon, said he knows other soldiers who were not U.S. citizens. He was one of them. Born in Ethiopia, he had a green card when he enlisted and was a staff sergeant when he gained his citizenship.

Immigrants with permanent residency are eligible to join the military, and about 18,700 on average were serving on active duty between 2010 and 2016, according to the Defense Department.

Pineda gained his green card in 1986 and became a U.S. citizen two months after enlisting.

While serving, he applied for his wife and their two oldest children, who were born in Mexico, to receive parole in place, which allows relatives of military members to apply for legal status while remaining in the country. He thought their approval would be automatic, but he was wrong.

His sons' requests were granted, and they eventually gained citizenship.

His wife's was denied. A 2011 letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stated the reason: "a fraudulently obtained Border Crossing Card." It also informed her that the order of removal originally entered against her was being reinstated and that she was "ineligible for 'any relief' under the immigration laws."

Castro said she was given the border crossing card, which allows Mexican citizens limited travel in the United States, by a woman she paid to help her enter the country in 1998. Pineda was living in California at the time, and Castro had hoped to join him with their 1-year-old son, Ivan. After she was caught by Border Patrol agents and sent back to Guadalajara, Castro said she planned to stay there permanently and see her husband whenever he came to visit.

Then two years later, Juan was born.

Juan was 3 months old when Castro looked at him one night and noticed his eyes crossing and his mouth turning purple. She took him to doctors and eventually learned that he had a transposition of the great arteries in his heart and needed surgery.

"The doctor said if you have the ability to take him to the United States, take him," Pineda said. "It was life or death."

Pineda, then a member of the carpenters union, had insurance to pay for the surgery. So the family handed Juan to strangers who took him across the border using another child's birth certificate, and Castro walked with Ivan, then 3, nearly 20 hours, drinking at one point from an animal trough when they ran out of water.

At 3, Juan received his first surgery at a northern Virginia hospital. Pineda doesn't like to talk about those months his son spent in a hospital bed. He said the toddler could talk and walk before the surgery, but after an allergic reaction to the anesthesia he was left with brain damage, unable to speak or move much of his body.

He was 8 when he began taking steps on his own again and nowuses a walker at times to get around. On a recent afternoon, he pushed it down the hallway of his private school, the Linwood Center, which took him in 2015 after his public high school said it no longer could meet his needs. At the time, he would hurt others and himself, take off his clothes at inappropriate times and could communicate only by spelling out letters with his fingers, Linwood behavior analyst Erika Greszler said. Now, his challenging behavior has decreased and he's "a talker," she said. He uses an electronic tablet to communicate, calling it his "voice" by forming a V with his fingers and pointing to his throat.

Greszler said she thinks that if his mother is deported it "would be devastating to his progress." Castro is the parent who calls the school when he is sick or to check on his development. She's also the one who helps him shower, brushes his teeth and meets him each afternoon at the bus stop.

Juan sat next to her on a March afternoon outside a Washington church, pressing his shoulder into hers. They'd come to an immigration rights rally being staged by people from more than 60 different congregations. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders spoke about the need for solidarity, and when Castro's turn at the microphone came she explained why she needed their support.

"My family would be destroyed if I'm not here to take care of them," she said.

Afterward, she and Pineda, along with two of their children, marched with the crowd toward the White House, comforted in part by a promise made to them. Members of those congregations plan to go to Baltimore on April 4 and wait alongside the family to learn Castro's fate.

ARC announces funding for job, research initiatives http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ01/170329481 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ01/170329481 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:19:41 -0400 The Appalachian Regional Commission announced nearly $2.25 million in investments for two West Virginia projects through the POWER initiative.

The Canaan Valley Institute in Davis will receive about $1.5 million for its Sustainable Jobs Initiative, the federal agency said in a news release.

The project will create a training program for displaced workers and veterans to grow honey and bee products and native plants in southern West Virginia, with a focus on using reclaimed mine land.

The project will serve more than 2,600 workers, generate $2.4 million of revenue over three years, and attract $4.6 million of leveraged private investment, the agency said.

The Huntington Municipal Development Authority will receive $750,000 for the Polymer Technology Center of Huntington. The project will convert a 27-acre abandoned brownfield in downtown Huntington into a resource for the polymer manufacturing sector.

The center will be used to assist manufacturing and technology firms, along with help for polymer industry startups and workforce development.

The Appalachian Regional Commission said it has invested $75.5 million to diversify the economy in coal-reliant areas of Appalachia through the congressionally funded POWER initiative. It has received more than $280 million in funding requests for ways to revive Appalachia's economy since the initiative's inception.

President Donald Trump proposed to eliminate all the agency's funding in his federal budget proposal released earlier this month. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., were among 10 senators who released a statement Wednesday urging the president to preserve funding for the commission.

Boil-water advisories: March 30, 2017 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0112/170329482 GZ0112 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0112/170329482 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:14:28 -0400 n West Virginia American Water has issued a boil-water advisory for approximately 50 customers on Clay Street and Jones Street in Oak Hill. The advisory follows a water main break.

Customers in these areas should boil their water for at least one full minute prior to use until further notice.

n Raleigh County Public Service District has lifted the boil-water advisory for customers of the Arnett System.

n Beckley Water Company has lifted the boil-water advisory for U.S. 19 in Daniels from the intersection of Grandview Road to Old Crow Road and all side streets. This includes Grandview Road, 4-H Lake Road, and C&O Dam Road except from Oak Street to the end of the system.

Coal is losing an Appalachian stronghold and Trump can't stop it http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0113/170329483 GZ0113 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0113/170329483 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:10:37 -0400 By NAUREEN S. MALIK and TIM LOH Bloomberg By By NAUREEN S. MALIK and TIM LOH Bloomberg Natural gas already won the battle with coal on America's Atlantic coast. Now it's about to move west and take Ohio -- and President Donald Trump new rollback of environmental regulations won't stop the rout.

At least six gas-fired plants are planned in the Ohio River Valley over the next four years. That's enough to supply more than 4 million homes, and topple coal as the state's main source of electricity.

Because gas is cleaner, its displacement of coal was cheered by the Obama administration. Still, it was the economics of shale drilling, not the government's environmental rules, that drove the change. Gas prices have fallen almost 80 percent since mid-2008 as production surged across the country.

That's what makes it so hard for Trump to bring back mining jobs in states like Ohio where the coal vote helped put him in the White House. It's one thing to scrap his predecessor's green agenda, as Trump did Tuesday with an executive order that cancels various carbon-cutting policies. Taking on the market is another matter.

"Ohio coal is already feeling the pressure," said John Bartlett, who helps manage about $2.5 billion of energy and utility stocks at W.H. Reaves & Co. Inc. in Jersey City. "It's going to be more and more intense as the decade wears on."

Bartlett remembers when "all the coal in the world went up and down the Ohio River. You used to fly over it in the old days and see tons of barges."

Last year, coal's share of power generation in the state fell to about 58 percent, from 86 percent in 2006. Bartlett estimates that by 2021, gas-fired stations in Ohio will be able to produce 20.4 gigawatts -- almost double their current capacity -- while coal will hold steady at 15.4 gigawatts.

Competition from gas was one reason that AES Corp.'s Dayton Power & Light announced in November it will shut two coal plants in Adams County on the Ohio River. With a combined capacity of 3,000 megawatts, they've operated for 40 years and employ hundreds of people.

"That got the community fired up," said Michael Pell, chief executive of First State Bank in the nearby town of Winchester, who's emerged as a leader of local efforts to resist the closures. He lists the likely effects: the county will lose about 30 percent of its property revenue, and potentially 70 percent of its school budget, and there are no state rules to guarantee the sites will be properly decommissioned and cleaned up.

"Not only will we lose our tax base and jobs, we may lose our water supply," he said. There'll be "zombie plants sitting on 5,500 acres that my grandchildren will have to look at for all eternity." Pell said the community is hoping for some help from the Trump administration, with its emphasis on defending coal. But "we have very little political leverage, either in Ohio or nationally."

About 250 miles east, in the heart of shale country near the Pennsylvania border, Richard Bereschik is in the opposite situation: he's contemplating a "windfall." Privately held Advanced Power wants to build a 1,100-megawatt gas-fired plant near his village of Wellsville -- a sign that gas is replicating the coal industry's old "mine-to-mouth" strategy by putting generators near the fuel source, to keep transportation costs down.

Bereschik, 64, is Wellsville's school superintendent, and says he's watched enrollment fall by almost half as factories shut and families moved away. With the influx of money from the new generator, he plans to bring back arts and music programming, and finally replace the elementary school's roof. "We're a very low-wealth district, and for this to happen is just great," he said.

Even there, there's a catch. Local officials say that building the plant will create about 500 union jobs -- but the finished facility will only need 20 to 30 people to operate. Meanwhile, two coal-fired plants in the area owned by FirstEnergy Corp. are at risk.

If that happens, "it's going to turn into a ghost town overnight," said Mark Allison, an elected official in nearby Yellow Creek Township. "Hopefully Trump comes through."

Ohio and Pennsylvania helped elect Trump, who's reiterated his support for the coal industry since taking office. But in its budget draft this month, the White House proposed to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission, one of the agencies that invests in communities hurt by coal closures.

Wendy Wasserman, a Washington-based spokeswoman for the commission, said Appalachia has lost more than 33,000 coal-mining jobs since 2011, without counting indirect effects such as job losses for truckers, or railway workers, or safety inspectors. She said the commission will continue working to retrain some of those people.

The region learned a lesson from the coal collapse, Wasserman said: "You can't be reliant on one economy or on one sector."

Some people think that the dash for gas will leave parts of the U.S. too reliant on that as a power source. Robert Murray is one of them. He has a vested interest: he's chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., the country's largest privately held coal miner, with terminals on the banks of the Ohio River and a fleet of barges and towboats to supply power plants.

Unlike coal, gas can't be stored at the plants, Murray points out. "I'd certainly say they're overbuilding too much capacity," he said. "We've got to watch where we're going with that."

'Distressed Market'

Historically, gas prices have been volatile. The risk is that by the time they swing up again, other producers -- nuclear, as well as coal -- could have been driven out of business.

Toby Shea, senior credit officer at Moody's Investors Service Inc., said that coal closures in places like Ohio will have a "rippling effect" across markets, pushing already-low electricity prices even lower. It could turn the world's single biggest competitive power market -- the one operated by PJM Interconnection across 13 states from the mid-Atlantic to the Midwest -- into a "distressed market" where generators struggle to turn a profit, he said.

In a cheap-gas world, its rivals are pushing for government aid to survive. Exelon Corp. won nuclear subsidies in Illinois and New York, with other states expected to follow. In Ohio, FirstEnergy is pushing for "legislation that recognizes the value of nuclear power," spokeswoman Jennifer Young said.

But the same company's efforts to get coal subsidies in Ohio failed.

Without state or federal support, "it's a question of how long these coal plants hang around," said Prajit Ghosh, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. "The economics are more and more strained."


Bloomberg's Dave Merrill contributed.

Trump administration seeks delay in ruling on climate plan http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329484 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20170329/GZ0101/170329484 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 13:56:20 -0400 By MICHAEL BIESECKER and SAM HANANEL The Associated Press By By MICHAEL BIESECKER and SAM HANANEL The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) - Hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order seeking to undo his predecessor's efforts to curb climate change, his administration has asked a federal appeals court to postpone ruling on lawsuits over Obama-era restrictions on carbon emissions.

The regulations - known as the Clean Power Plan - have been the subject of long-running legal challenges by about two dozen mostly Republican-led states and industry groups that profit from burning coal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in the case last year and could issue a ruling any time.

"Because the rule is under agency review and may be significantly modified or rescinded through further rulemaking in accordance with the executive order, holding this case in abeyance is the most efficient and logical course of action here," lawyers for the Justice Department said in their motion late Tuesday.

A coalition of 16 mostly Democratic-led states and environmental groups involved in the legal case say they will oppose the administration's request for a delay. A ruling in favor of the carbon restrictions from the D.C. appeals court could help blunt the Trump administration's efforts to undo them and put the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rewriting the Clean Power Plan and other carbon-limiting federal regulations is likely to take years to complete and is expected to face legal challenges from big Democratic-leaning states as New York and California.

In a call with reporters, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said presidents don't have legal authority to just do away with Environmental Protection Agency regulations with the stroke of a pen.

Trump's executive order did not attempt to withdraw a key 2009 EPA ruling that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide endanger the public's health and welfare. The Trump administration is also bound by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that requires the federal agency to regulate planet-warming carbon emissions.

"We're very confident that the EPA can't simply dismantle the Clean Power Plan and leave nothing in its place," said Schneiderman, a Democrat. "We regret the fact that the president is trying to dial back history, but it's not going to happen."

Meanwhile, members of the conservative coalition that sued to stop Obama's plan were already declaring a "monumental victory" for their side.

"President Trump's decisive action lets everyone know this unlawful, job-killing regulation will find no support in his administration," said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. "That's a tremendous relief for every coal miner and family that depends upon coal's success.