FILE – A C.S.X. train loaded with coal winds its way into the mountains in this Nov. 21, 2004 file photo taken near the New River at Cotton Hill in Fayette County, W.Va. For decades, coal from West Virginia’s vast deposits was mined and hauled off without leaving behind the benefit of a lasting trust fund financed by the state’s best-known commodity. In 2013 a new bonanza in the natural gas fields has state leaders proposing to create an oil and natural gas trust fund for future generations. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — For decades, coal from West Virginia’s vast deposits was mined, loaded on rail cars and hauled off without leaving behind a lasting trust fund financed by the state’s best-known commodity. Big coal’s days are waning, but now a new bonanza in the natural gas fields has state leaders working to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.
West Virginia’s Senate president, Jeff Kessler, is pushing to create an oil and natural gas trust fund to support core government functions decades from now. His goal: a cushion of funds long after the gas is depleted to buoy an Appalachian mountain state chronically vexed by poverty, high joblessness, and cycles of boom and bust.
The Democratic Senate leader said the previous generation missed out on creating a permanent fund based on coal severance tax revenues. Current residents, he said, should be prudent and set aside a part of the revenue from the extraction of natural gas to benefit future generations.
“Had we had the good sense to put a few cents aside of every ton of coal … that has come out of our ground, we’d probably be the richest state in the Union instead of in many respects the poorest,” Kessler said.
Indeed, supporters say the future health and welfare of the state is, to some extent, at stake. West Virginia consistently has ranked among the states with the lowest life expectancy while grappling with problems of obesity, education and drug abuse.
“This is really about protecting the long-term fiscal health of the Login to read more