Hard times have come yet again to the coalfields of West Virginia -- massive layoffs, big cuts in production. The coal severance tax is down by about half in many coal counties.
That's what we're talking about this week on “The Front Porch”, our podcast where we bring together people with diverse views and backgrounds to see where we can find common ground.
This week, we debate two responses to these facts our state can take:
1. We need to double down on the War on Coal. It’s the state's most important industry and will continue to be so for a long time. State leaders must do everything in their power to protect and preserve the industry, because in southern West Virginia, it’s the best bet we’ve got for prosperity.
2. Coal is dying in West Virginia. We should stop trying to save it. State leaders should stop fighting the war on coal and focus on trying to help individuals and communities make the transition to something else.
On "The Front Porch" with us this week are Laurie Lin, columnist for the Charleston Daily Mail, and Rick Wilson of the American Friends Service Committee.
We also discuss this hypothetical: What would West Virginia have looked like if coal wasn’t here? Would we be worse or better off?
And, do you really think this is a permanent, irreversible decline? Or has the death of the coal industry been greatly exaggerated?
It's all part of our new project, "The Front Porch," where I will serve as host and provocateur, tackling the tough issues facing West Virginia and Appalachia with some of the region's most interesting thinkers.
An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 5:44 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available at wvpublic.org and as a podcast as well.
Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail sfinn @ wvpublic.org