Rep. Nick Rahall, Democratic incumbent for the U.S. House in the 3rd District, answered six questions posed to him by members of The Register-Herald editorial board earlier this week.
What opportunities do you see for diversifying the economy of West Virginia?
“The coal industry is our foundation, has been, is and always will be. Coal is number one. While it’s our foundation and a solid foundation, that does not mean it should be our ceiling. So, diversification we have been doing. I’ve used that, my seniority, to diversify our economy. Starting my first year, when we preserved the New River and made it a national river. That created the whitewater rafting industry. We built upon the New River by making it the backbone for the largest federally protected rivers east of the Mississippi.
“That is being used as a magnet to attract the Boy Scouts into this region, a game-changer for our economy. Tourism, maybe not the number one generator of revenues, because coal is number one, but certainly is growing. We help nurture that every step of the way. We are trying to preserve a lot of our heritage in southern West Virginia.
“With the expansion of the Marcellus Natural Gas Shale discovery and coming down further into West Virginia, we find it is coming down perhaps to Monroe County. That has the potential to help diversify our economy. We don’t want to have them fighting the coal industry, which has happened in our state Legislature and even Supreme Court decisions were issued in the past.
“Now we see geothermal in the latest reports this week may be a potential hotspot or whatever. Windmills, solar, all of our domestic sources of energy need to be explored here in West Virginia. We have a talented workforce. We have an entrepreneurial spirit, we have a faith in our area that can develop all of our domestic energy resources that God has richly blessed us with in this state. Timbering, we’ve been doing that. In any of these projects, whether it is oil and gas drilling or windmills or solar or geothermal, we have to make sure it is done in a responsible fashion. You can’t just rush headlong into it. We have a process, we have regulatory agencies which for the most part that do control these industries and that’s their proper role, to make sure they are done in a responsible and safe manner. Just as in coal mining, we have to protect our number one resource which is the coal miner.”