W.Va. Governor: Appalachian Coal Subsidies Are Matter of National Security

A coal mine in West Virginia

A coal mine in West Virginia Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | San Francisco’s needed seawall replacement; North Carolina’s dismal health rankings; and Florida’s high-speed rail line opening delayed.

ENERGY | The governor of West Virginia, a billionaire mining and agricultural magnate, says that boosting the declining coal industry in his state and elsewhere in Appalachia should be a national security priority for the Trump administration. To Gov. Jim Justice, the security of the Eastern U.S. power grid is at stake if oil and gas supplies from Western U.S. states were to be disrupted. According to his plan for federal subsidies to boost Appalachia’s sagging coal industry, the “federal government would pay our power plants for every ton of coal that they buy that’s a Central [Appalachian] ton or Northern [Appalachian] ton of coal in order to preserve our eastern coalfields,” the governor said. Justice, who Republican who shifted back to the GOP after running as a Democrat, has been at the White House twice in the past three weeks to pitch his plan. [WV Metro News; Utility Dive]

South Carolina’s attorney general is suing the U.S. Department of Energy for failing to remove one ton of plutonium from the Savannah River Site and is seeking to recover $100 million. A congressional mandate required the Energy Department, starting Jan. 1, 2016, to pay South Carolina $1 million for every day for the plutonium remained in place. The plutonium hasn’t been moved yet. [The Post and Courier]

INFRASTRUCTURE | San Francisco’s three-mile long seawall is in need of billions of dollars of upgrades over the coming decades to make it more resilient to a major earthquake and rising sea levels. City officials are working on plans to put a $350 million “Seawall Fortification Bond” on the ballot in November 2018. Even that amount of money, however, would be $145 million short of the $500 million needed to complete Phase 1 of the seawall improvement project. Phase two would involve $5 billion of work. [San Francisco Examiner]

As part of Project Neon, the Nevada Department of Transportation’s massive $1 billion public works project to expand the Spaghetti Bowl freeway junction where Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95 meet near downtown Las Vegas commuters will be seeing some big changes. Express lanes are changing into high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Digital message signs for variable real-time suggested traffic speeds and other advisories, connected to a sensor network, will be activated, too. [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

Florida East Coast Industries’ $3 billion Brightline high-speed rail project connecting West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami is now scheduled to begin service by the end of 2017, slightly later than expected. Service along segments of the line had been slated to begin this summer and in the fall. “I would rather wait than to give you a specific date now and then have to postpone it later,” David Howard, CEO of Brightline, said this week. [Miami Herald]

A task force in Bismarck, North Dakota is suggesting that the city cease using special assessment districts to fund local infrastructure projects and instead shift to a new fee attached to utility bills and for larger projects, a special sales tax increase that would require a public vote. [The Bismarck Tribune]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | In Portland, Oregon, the mayor has appointed the city’s first African-American police chief. Mayor Ted Wheeler’s appointment of Danielle Outlaw, a 19-year veteran of the police department in Oakland, California, “comes at a critical time when community and police relations are strained and the force faces a daunting list of federally mandated reforms.” [The Oregonian / OregonLive.com]


The North Carolina Capitol in Raleigh (Shutterstock)

Raleigh, North Carolina: The Tar Heel State has some of the worst health care in the nation. A new study measuring the 50 states and Washington, D.C., on 35 different measurements related to health care shows that North Carolina is 50th when it comes to costs, 44th in access and 36th in health outcomes. In all, that’s fifth-worst in the nation but better than Arkansas, Alaska, Mississippi and Louisiana. [WalletHub; The News & Observer]

St. Louis, Missouri: A local branch of the NAACP now says it “wholeheartedly supports” a decision by the organization’s national headquarters to issue a travel warning for the state of Missouri. The St. Louis County NAACP had previously pushed back on the advisory. The NAACP passed an emergency resolution in July that warns people of color about the dangers of traveling in Missouri. After the advisory was issued, the local St. Louis chapter called on the group to rescind it, saying that it could hurt the local economy. [St. Louis Post Dispatch]

New York City, New York: A city hall spokesman denies a tabloid report that Mayor Bill de Blasio frequently takes naps. [New York Daily News]  

Baton Rouge, Louisiana: The Louisiana state government has selected San Francisco-based Splunk for an accelerated IT consolidation project, which will involve “implementing a shared services model to streamline processes, save time for citizens and IT staff and enable fine-grained usage-based agency billing.” [Business Wire]

Louisville, Kentucky: State officials want to “bring major sports facilities and fun things to do to the Kentucky Exposition Center” and have issued an “open-ended solicitation” in hopes developers can develop a 12-acre site where former military armory buildings currently stand. [The Courier Journal]

Waterloo, Iowa: In a 6-1 vote, the city council approved a plan to install automated traffic enforcement cameras at several intersections in the northeastern Iowa city. [Radio Iowa]

Chesapeake, Virginia: After damage from Hurricane Matthew closed it last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning reopen the Dismal Swamp Canal by the end of September. Crews have had to remove 350 trees from the canal, which required some dredging, too. The Dismal Swamp Canal is part of the Intracoastal Waterway that connects Virginia’s Tidewater area with eastern North Carolina. [The Virginian-Pilot]