By JIM McCONVILLE
MARTINSBURG, W. Va. — The Eastern Panhandle may be poised to become an economic driver for the state, said recently re-elected West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in an interview Thursday with The Journal.
With Procter & Gamble’s manufacturing facility to partially open by end of 2017 — and other companies lining up to follow suite — the Eastern Panhandle could serve as an economic catalyst for further company in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties. The P&G plant, to employ 700 workers when completed in 2019, will spur other companies to open shop in the Eastern Panhandle, creating additional jobs, Morrisey said.
“Procter & Gamble is a big deal for this area,” Morrisey said. “The next step is to pursue other companies that will follow.”
Morrisey said his plans as Attorney General for 2017 will include stepping up the attack on the state’s opioid crisis, dismantling the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, and following up on this year’s victory securing water rights to the Potomac River.
Morrisey pointed to increased litigation against manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies this year as an additional weapon against prescription drug abuse.
“Law enforcement is only one component of it,” Morrisey said. “This is a broader effort. We’re looking at all aspects of this as part of our efforts to attack this issue holistically from a supply, demand and an educational perspective.”
Morrisey said his office will apply closer scrutiny of both pharmaceutical firm buying and physician drug dispensing patterns.
“People have to monitor the way that drugs are dispensed,”Morrisey said.
Morrisey’s office recently charged two pharmacy retailers in the state with prescription abuse.
“A couple of weeks ago we sued a pharmacy in Boone County and a pharmacy in Petersburg,” Morrisey said. “The number of prescription doses that were being dispensed were off the charts.”
Morrisey said the next step in the opioid war is pushing drug manufacturers to develop non-opioid alternatives.
“We need to change some of the insurance rules, and we have to change some of the government practices,” Morrisey said. “This helps contribute to the problem — it has to change.”
On the environmental front, Morrisey said he will continue focusing on issues regarding the reach and regulations under the Environmental Protection Agency.
Morrisey’s office enters 2017 with one environmental feather already in its cap, having secured water rights from Maryland to access to the Potomac River.
Earlier this year, in a letter to Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Secretary of the Environment Benjamin H. Grumbles, Morrisey challenged Maryland’s time-consuming and costly permit process, arguing the Mountain State’s neighbor has no legal authority to interfere with West Virginia’s access to the Potomac River.
“That was a big win for our area,” Morrisey said. “We were able to convince Maryland to ensure that West Virginia have the same access to the Potomac as their state. This was a century long dispute that we resolved in three weeks.”
Next year, Morrisey will also spearhead a 27-state petition to the incoming Trump administration to withdraw President Barrack Obama’s Clean Power Plan that is intended to set a national limit on carbon pollution produced by power plants.
“We’re optimistic we are going to have an administration that we can to work with, so the Eastern Panhandle and West Virginia don’t suffer for regulations that will increase the price of electricity, with no meaningful impact on the environment,”Morrisey said.
Also on Morrisey’s environmental “To Do” list is to follow up this year’s successful stay of the “Water of United States Rule,”which would increase federal oversight on state-owned bodies of water.
Morrisey said his office has received public support from residents in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties for its lawsuit against the rule.
“It’s very relevant for a lot of farmers, contractors — people who care about public works projects in this area,” Morrisey said. “It’s because the federal government is trying to dramatically increase its jurisdiction over areas regulated by the states. People have come up to us and said ‘I don’t want the federal government regulating my backyard ditch.’”
However, Morrisey added that the work is far from over.
“We have a stay in place, and that is good, but that doesn’t mean you are done with your work,” Morrisey said. “We’d rather stop these now, as opposed to going all the way up to the Supreme Court.”
Morrisey praised President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, saying his appointment would move the EPA in the right direction.
“Pruitt is going to refocus the EPA to its core mission,” Morrisey said. “He is going to help the EPA focus on protecting our air and our water, but not reaching into the purview of the states and trying to drive policy that’s unlawful down our throats.”
With the seasonal uptick in complaints of scam charities, Morrisey offered residents simple consumer tips on how to avoid being duped by a bogus holiday solicitation.
“Make sure that you are actually giving to a bonafide charity,”Morrisey said. “Look at the name of the charity and make sure it matches the name of the real charity. Scammers frequently alter the name slightly to convince you to donate.”
Morrisey said the other tip is to follow the money trail.
“Look online and see where the money is going,” Morrisey said. “If it is all for administrative purposes, it’s probably not a very worthwhile charity.”
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