December 05, 2013

Manchin Hears Concerns From Marshall County | Wheeling Intelligencer/News Register

MOUNDSVILLE - Energy and gun control were just two of the issues Sen. Joe Manchin addressed during a public meeting Wednesday at the Marshall County Courthouse.

Manchin, D-W.Va., focused the conversation on keeping the coal industry in West Virginia alive and growing the natural gas industry in the county. Manchin said the Department of Energy reported coal will be the leading generator of energy for the next 30 years. However, he said the Environmental Protection Agency produces regulations that make it difficult for coal companies to survive.

"If they're saying it why aren't they working with us?" Manchin said. "I'm for all wind and solar, but I'm enough of a realist to understand that it is not going to fuel or power this country right now. It might be 40 or 50 years, but it's a pipe dream right now."

Gun control was a more controversial topic, as several citizens expressed a need for the government to decrease gun regulations and opposed legislation to require background checks when purchasing a firearm.

Manchin said he has pushed for background checks saying "it made sense" to require one in a commercial transaction either in person or online. Manchin said mental health issues, gun culture such as violent video games and building schools with bulletproof glass also need to be addressed when discussing gun control.

"We hardly do anything with mental illness," Manchin said. "Also, as governor we built a lot of schools and not one architect ever came and said to pass legislation to have every first floor window be bullet proof. We're working right now in every school to get them on the first floors."

Todd Ruthers, a member of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he would rather see the Senator focus on coal instead of being involved in introducing gun regulations.

"Just because you put restrictions on guns doesn't mean a person isn't going to find a gun," Ruthers said.

The meeting also touched on other issues including immigration, health care reform and the debt crisis.

After the meeting, Manchin said he wanted to come to Marshall County to discuss the booming gas industry and to express his concerns about safety regulations in the Shoemaker and McElroy, which are in the process of being purchased by Murray Energy.

"I'm in touch with the people back home and I know where they're coming from and I think the dialogue really helps in making the decisions," Manchin said. "Coming here to Marshall County, it's the epicenter of energy right now with 90 percent of the gas produced in the state produced right here. The opportunities we have downstream, once we are producing, that means more jobs."

Manchin met with about 25 county residents and officials, including county Commissioner Bob Miller, Prosecutor Jeff Cramer and Delegates David Evans and Mike Ferro.

By:  Sarah Harmon