State auditor predicts healthy future for coal industry

West Virginia Auditor Glen Gainer III predicted a sound and healthy future for coal Wednesday, and told county clerks in a Beckley gathering that Marcellus shale exploration will further enhance the state’s economy.

“West Virginia is on the cusp, I believe, of having a great revitalization,” he said.

Without mentioning directly the Environmental Protection Agency’s issues with mine operators, Gainer acknowledged there are “issues in the coalfields.”

“But coal is here and coal is going to be here a long time,” the longtime auditor said.

“I feel certain we’re going to continue to utilize coal to generate electricity for many years go come, but we do have some challenges with that.”

Gainer applauded lawmakers for moving quickly and decisively on regulating the fledgling Marcellus shale industry, predicting the gas provides West Virginia with “a new opportunity.”

“West Virginia is moving in the right direction,” he said.

“I’m excited about our future.”

One inkling of what is in store can be seen at county courthouses in northern counties, where people stand in line, or take a number, to track down property with viable mineral rights of the gas, he said.

Gainer commended the clerks for working as a team in a non-partisan manner to help the public, and reminded them they provide services from “the cradle to the grave,” what with birth and death certificates, and many other things in between.

“Sometimes you fight like family and argue like family,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, you always have a way of coming back together as an association and come into an agreement of what you need to do and what you need to stand for as county clerks.”

Gainer found it a bit disheartening that the young generation doesn’t seem as interested in the public sector.

“Service is something that is very important,” he said.

“One of the things I worry about as we look into the future is getting young people involved, getting young people wanting to serve. I look at my own office, my own colleagues, not just here in the state, but nationally. We’re continuing to get grayer, and grayer and grayer. I hate to admit it, but it’s happening. I don’t see the enthusiasm of young people at this point, stepping up and coming to the plate. But then sometimes, I wonder, why would they?”

In his first inaugural speech, President Abraham Lincoln said the question is not whether government should be bigger or smaller, but simply smarter and better, Gainer said.

“I commend you for trying to make government smarter and better,” he said.

Gainer also recited the words of scientist Albert Einstein, ‘arguably one of the smartest men to ever walk on the face of the earth. The greatest man to walk on the face of the earth was Jesus Christ.”

Einstein once remarked that “only a life lived in service to others is worth living,” Gainer said.

“That’s what you do every day,” he told the clerks. “As county clerks, you’re serving.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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