Monday, October 08, 2018

Jobs Alliance, funded by coal baron, says it's a voice for local jobs but tries to block natural-gas power plants

A group of West Virginians formed a group called the Ohio Valley Jobs Alliance in 2015, saying they were a "voice for local jobs," but have taken legal action to block three proposed power plants, to be fueled by natural gas, that would bring jobs to West Virginians. The group is at least partially funded by Murray Energy Corp., one of the nation's largest coal producers, the Charleston Gazette-Mail's Ken Ward Jr. reports for ProPublica's Local Reporting Network. CEO Robert Murray was a major donor to President Trump and gave him a pro-coal wish list.

Construction has not begun on any of the three plants, partly because of legal challenges. In all three cases, OJVA lawyers have challenged key permits required for construction. "In pursuing their cases, the lawyers paid, at least in part, by Murray Energy have relied on the same kinds of government regulations that Robert Murray has railed against," Ward reports. "In the Moundsville plant case, those lawyers challenged a permit partly because it allowed an increase in carbon-dioxide emissions that cause global warming. Murray has said global warming is a 'hoax'."

Murray Energy said in a statement that OJVA is a "grassroots organization that seeks to preserve coal jobs in the Ohio Valley" and that, other than "certain legal fees," Murray has not provided any financial support to the organization. "Testimony in the power plant cases before both agencies doesn’t reveal details about Murray Energy’s funding for the OVJA lawyers, and current financial records for the alliance aren’t publicly available," Ward reports.

Backers of the Moundsville Power project in Marshall County say the job would provide 500 jobs during each of the three years of its construction and 30 permanent jobs once construction is complete. "Like the Moundsville plant, the facilities proposed for Harrison and Brooke counties would provide hundreds of construction jobs for several years and then about 30 permanent positions. All told, the three plants would cost more than $2 billion to build," Ward reports. Anne Blankenship, director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, wrote in an op-ed that the plants would bring even more permanent jobs in the form of "well servicers, compressor station operators, pipeline inspectors, air permit compliance field specialists" and more.

No comments: