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Leading a bipartisan charge

June 30, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

There are a lot of people who say Washington is broken and that it's just too partisan, but instead of adding to the problem, I think it is time to do something about it.

That's why, earlier this month, I led a bipartisan energy summit to our great state with two of my friends on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican Senator from Alaska, and Ron Wyden, who will be the highest-ranking Democratic Senator from Oregon.

Either Ron or Lisa will likely be the next chair of this important and powerful committee. They came to West Virginia on a fact-finding trip to tour our state, learn how much energy we produce and see how we're putting our country's energy independence first.

Let me tell you, it's pretty special - and a pretty big deal - for senators of their stature to take the time from their home state demands and come to West Virginia, and I am so appreciative that they took a busy weekend to travel with me to see how West Virginia is committed to using all of our resources to make our nation more energy independent.

It's clear from this visit that West Virginia has friends on both sides of the aisle - and both of these incoming leaders know that West Virginia can help make America energy independent. Here in West Virginia, we know that we have to do everything possible to increase the production of American energy using coal, oil, gas and renewables so we're less dependent on foreign oil.

On our two-day whirlwind tour, we were able to see a state that has an "all-in" policy. A lot of people know West Virginia only as a coal state and don't know that we have a lot more - and we are utilizing everything we have.

Our tour started in the Eastern Panhandle, at Mt. Storm, where there's a combination wind farm and coal-fired electric generation. They produce 264 megawatts of wind power and 1,600 megawatts of coal at one of the most modern facilities we have. And when the wind isn't blowing, the coal can be relied on to provide a constant source of electricity that feeds the east coast of this country.

We traveled to the coalfields of southern West Virginia, where we saw deep underground mining and mountaintop removal. We saw how we've done extraction right - by giving the land a life after the mining for military training or schools or agriculture - and ways we can do it better. At the Mountain Laurel Complex in Logan County, we saw one of the most advanced facilities in the country, but we also saw 300,000 tons of coal on the ground - that's about $30 million in product. As of today, they have 600 people working full time, and we're going to work to make sure they can continue to work full time.

From the air, we surveyed our state's largest producer of hydroelectric power on Summersville Lake, which produces 80 megawatts. We went to the north central part of our state, where we were shown the whole Marcellus Shale process of drilling. We explained to Lisa and Ron that West Virginia is one of the few states in the country that has provided solid guidelines for drillers and communities.

Before this tour, I think too many people thought of us as coal and coal-only. While coal will be our base for a very long time, we wanted to show that we're trying to embrace all our sources of energy. We don't want to be written out of the equation for our nation's energy future.

For these two wonderful senators - and great friends - to come to West Virginia, it's pretty darn special. We had a chance to get a better understanding of how we can work together and put the country first.

I look forward to working with both of them in the months and years to come.



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