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Justice, Morrisey primary wins leave WV poised for coal-reliant energy status quo

By Mike Tony, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia has lagged behind the rest of the country in providing its citizens renewable power for years.

Tuesday’s election results proved the power of two of West Virginia’s leading energy transition and climate action opponents is very renewable.

Gov. Jim Justice, a coal magnate who has questioned the scientific consensus of climate change and rebooted a state energy board to develop what he said would be a new generation of coal plants in West Virginia, secured the Republican Party nomination for the U.S. Senate in a 35-point rout of Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va.

“The people of West Virginia genuinely love me,” a triumphant Justice said at a Governor’s Mansion press conference on election night – moments after he said that the U.S. needs to be the “Saudi Arabia of the world.”

Three-term West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey — a leading force against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policies aimed at curbing public health-harming industrial pollution and promoting environmental justice — locked down the Republican nomination for governor.

During an election night victory speech in Martinsburg, Morrisey promised to defend a “way of life” against “the swamp,” President Joe Biden and “the media” that he has made clear includes long-term reliance on coal as an economic and energy lodestar in West Virginia.

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott won the Democratic U.S. Senate primary race. Even so, former coal company CEO Don Blankenship claimed three counties eight years after he was sentenced to a year in federal prison for willfully conspiring to violate safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County before an explosion there killed 29 men in 2010.

“We can be more environmentally conscious, and we can create jobs,” Elliott said in a phone interview Wednesday, dismissing the idea that West Virginia has to choose between the two. “But it has to start with getting away from this idea that anything seen to move away from fossil fuels in any way is somehow a threat to our way of life in West Virginia. What’s a threat to our way of life is continuing to be a state that ranks last in just about everything.”

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