Transitions: Feds should help with problem they created
Those who set and implement national policies do not seem to care how they affect American families and local governments. We in West Virginia and Ohio have been aware of that for many years.
A little to the north, the once-powerful steel industry is but a memory, thanks in part to the reluctance of federal officials — both Republican and Democrat — to anger foreign allies by cracking down on unfair trade practices. The tens of thousands of jobs that cost, both there and in other so-called Rust Belt communities, does not seem to have been a consideration.
During the Obama administration’s eight years in power, federal agencies were instructed to do all they could to shut down coal mines and coal-fired power plants. They were very effective in accomplishing that. Though President Donald Trump’s White House is reversing those policies as quickly as possible, it is too late for many mines and generating stations.
When FirstEnergy shut down some coal-fired units at its W.H. Sammis Power Plant in Stratton, Ohio, the facility’s value decreased. That means FirstEnergy will pay much lower property taxes.
One school district in that county will lose about $1.6 million a year in tax revenue from the plant. Another $452,000 a year will be lost because of devaluation of the American Electric Power plant at Brilliant, Ohio, a little more than 20 miles to south.
That comes to more than $2 million a year — a fiscal catastrophe for a school system with a total budget of less than $24 million.
But that school district is not the only one affected adversely by mine and power plant shutdowns. There are dozens of others.
The reaction among many federal officials — and the special interest groups that press for actions that unfairly and unreasonably target a single industry — typically is that some sacrifices have to be made to address problems such as climate change. Oh, and here are a few dollars for job re-training programs …
It is not good enough. At least on a transition basis, the federal government needs to help local governments, including school systems, over the fiscal rough water Washington has stirred up. Children in Ohio and West Virginia should not have to pay the tab for members of the Sierra Club to feel good about pretending to protect the children of the future.