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Hanshaw Discusses Climate Change, But Won’t Call It By Name

W. Va. House Speaker Roger Hanshaw has a degree in chemistry, but makes his living as an attorney for natural-gas companies. (W. Va. Legislature)
W. Va. House Speaker Roger Hanshaw has a degree in chemistry, but makes his living as an attorney for natural-gas companies. (W. Va. Legislature)
September 25, 2019

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – In an unprecedented statewide video conference on Tuesday, West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw took questions from schoolchildren in the state about climate change. But at no time did he say climate change is a real problem, or even use the phrase.

Hanshaw, R-Clay County, makes his living as a lawyer for natural-gas companies. When asked for the state's most serious environmental issue, the trained chemist cited something he admitted was unexpected: the need for trace minerals to make electronics and batteries.

"So, the chemistry of electronic devices and how do we power batteries?" Hanshaw asked. "We depend on, to a large extent, something called rare earth metals."

The other delegate in the video conference, Evan Hansen, D-Morgantown, said the most serious issues were water pollution and climate change.

Hanshaw seemed somewhat open to a market trading carbon credits, saying he preferred that to a simple carbon tax. He also spoke favorably about a bill Hansen has sponsored to allow companies to get electricity from solar arrays built on former coal mines.

However, the closest he came to saying climate change is a real, global crisis came when pointing out that the state's economy is still dependent on fossil fuels.

He told the students that the local tax picture is part of what leaves West Virginia tied to coal and gas.

"They fund the public school systems in many of our counties," he said. "So, because we're dealing with or talking about a problem that's global in nature, the kinds of barriers to its solution are so different everywhere in the world, they all collectively converge to make the problem hard to solve in total."

The most recent state revenue numbers came in $50 million short of last year's. State tax officials tie that directly to declining coal exports, falling gas prices and fewer jobs building gas pipelines.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV