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West Virginia is blessed with plentiful electric generating capacity providing reliable electricity to consumers and industry throughout the Mountain State.

More than 90% of our state’s electricity currently comes from coal-fired generating units that mainly use West Virginia coal. Thanks to the efforts of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the ongoing congressional debate on the proposed Build Back Better bill, West Virginians avoided a debilitating loss of electric power generating capacity and the thousands of mining and utility jobs it supports.

The Build Back Better bill initially proposed a $150 billion taxpayer-funded Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) to pay utilities to shut down fossil-fueled generating plants over the next 10 years in favor of new wind and solar generation. Manchin correctly argued that the bill “makes no sense” because it would pay utilities to do what they are already doing.

The White House eventually agreed and stripped the CEPP from the larger bill.

That was a good thing for our state’s electricity consumers and workers in the energy industry.

Here’s something else that was very good: the passage of President Biden’s infrastructure legislation by Congress earlier this month. This bill came about due to strong, bipartisan leadership from Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in the Senate and the courageous support of Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., in the House.

The bill provides critical funding to support investments in roads, bridges, broadband, ports and other basic infrastructure across America, including billions of dollars right here in West Virginia.

Those investments are critically important for West Virginia’s future. Funding for demonstration projects that will prove the utility of carbon capture and storage on coal-fired power plants is in the bill, as is funding to build out carbon capture infrastructure. The bill includes billions to jump start the clean-up of abandoned mine lands and puts dislocated coal miners first in line to get those reclamation jobs.

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With the passage of this bill, Congress has finally taken concrete steps to create a pathway for the preservation of coalfield jobs well into the future. We should all applaud the leadership and courage that three of the members of our state’s congressional delegation showed.

As they did in our fight to preserve retired miners’ health care and pensions, Manchin, Capito and McKinley once again led the way for us.

It is frankly a mystery to me why the votes on these bills were not unanimous in both houses of Congress. Surely, improving thousands of roads and bridges, expanding broadband access and taking action to preserve coal and coal-related jobs outweigh petty political posturing for people who represent a place like West Virginia.

Coal mining and electric generation jobs are among the highest-paid jobs in our state, supporting the livelihoods of thousands of middle-class families.

A recent West Virginia University study finds that coal-based electricity generation and coal mining are directly or indirectly responsible for 33,000 jobs in West Virginia, along with $14 billion of state economic output and nearly $3 billion of wages and benefits.

The 24/7 nature of baseload electric generation has proven time and again that we must preserve electric reliability when faced with extreme weather events and similar disruptions.

We all should recognize the need for all-of-the-above energy policies as we move toward a lower-carbon world.

Supporting our utility infrastructure with cost recovery for environmental and efficiency upgrades, needed electric transmission improvements and new technologies such as carbon capture and storage will help provide a stable future for the West Virginia economy while ensuring that we can continue to keep the lights on.

Cecil Roberts is International President of the United Mine Workers of America.

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