WILLIAMSON – Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins has now been in office for 10 months and he continues to fight the “war on coal.”
Most citizens who live in the region agree that the economy of southern West Virginia has suffered greatly in the past few years because of layoffs in the coal industry. The domino effect has caused even more businesses in the area to close their doors.
Rep. Jenkins was in Mingo County last week and talked about his first year in congress. “We’re working hard each and every day,” Jenkins told the Williamson Daily News. “Spending as much time out of Washington – in places like Williamson and Mingo County – this congressional district is 18 counties. I didn’t go to Washington to get settled in. I sleep on a cot in my office and have done that from day one. I plan to do that for as long as I’m there.”
“I’m up there to fight the war on coal,” Jenkins continued. “There is no place more impacted than here in Mingo County and southern West Virginia.”
Jenkins was named to the House Appropriations Committee, one of only two freshmen representatives.
He said it was the role of the Appropriations Committee to get the funds to the right organizations. “I want to make sure that the funding helps the people of the 3rd Congressional District.”
Jenkins said he is “very optimistic” that the coal industry will be able to bounce back.
“Those people who say coal’s best days are behind us – I vehemently disagree with that statement – I’m fighting for coal every day. One – we are standing up to this president and his EPA. I led the charge to cut one billion dollars out of the EPA’s budget next year. I went through their budget proposal (he is on that subcommittee) line by line and we found where the president was trying to fund and use our taxpayers’ dollars on a theatrical performance on global climate change.”
“We cut that money out,” the congressman stressed.
“We are cutting the EPA’s budget,” he added. Jenkins said that that money needs to be used in other areas, like fighting the drug crisis here in West Virginia.
“President Obama cut the HIDA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) drastically, which is critical to local law enforcement. It pays for the overtime hours which are needed to go after the drug dealers,” Jenkins said. “He cut the resources for the equipment that local law enforcement agencies need. I want to restore that funding.”
“We are trying to cut the money the President is trying to use on his war on coal and spend it and increasing it where it is needed to help the people – like here in this district,” Jenkins added.
Jenkins wants federal money to be put in places that will aid economic development.
As far as diversifying the economy, Rep. Jenkins said that we “have some incredible opportunities.”
“Very often when you talk about economic diversification – there are some that ask if we are giving up on coal. I want to be perfectly clear, I am not giving up on coal and I’m fighting for it each and every day. I will continue to do it as long as I serve the people of the 3rd District,” said Jenkins.
“But we also can work toward other economic opportunities and help diversify,” he added.
Jenkins talked about some of the grants that will take post-mine land and use it for agricultural projects. “We can grow business that way. I have worked hard in the wood products area,” he added.
The freshman congressman said that there are opportunities for companies who help with cyber-attacks. They need to locate in areas to build their “super computers” where the date is stored and collected. He said they didn’t want to be in the proximity of Washington, DC, but they still wanted to be geographically close enough to that locale. Jenkins thinks that West Virginia is the ideal location for some of these companies.
“We are in the sweet spot. There is going to be billions of dollars spent by federal agencies to silo new security data systems and we easily could put one of those (facilities) in our region,” Jenkins emphasized. “We have flat land – post mine land – that can be used for a factory or one of these facilities.”
“Whether it is agriculture or manufacturing – we are always looking for ways to produce jobs, but we will never turn our back on our hard working coal miners,” Jenkins stressed.
“The demand for coal across the world is solid. We know that coal is the cheapest and most abundant fuel available,” he said. “Unfortunately we have an administration in Washington that has a different agenda.”
“There are a lot of exciting possibilities and we are excited about the future,” an optimistic Jenkins said.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)