MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Moms Clean Air Force hosted a press conference in conjunction with the City of Morgantown, the West Virginia Clean Cities Program and Del. Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia, 51) to urge U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin to support a push toward electric cars and school buses.
With two signs displaying #ACT NOW ON CLIMATE CHANGE in the City Council Chamber, each speaker stepped up to the microphone to ask West Virginia’s Senators to support a “robust expansion for electric vehicles”. Morgantown mayor Jenny Selin said transitioning to electric vehicles is not only a matter of climate change but also an economic issue.
It’s important because we are competing statewide and nationally and internationally for jobs. And we’ve been seeing that with the closure of a pharmaceutical company that then they’re going to be moving to other countries potentially, and definitely out of our area. So, we need to be able to be supported with good, advanced manufacturing jobs that pay well that can support families that already live here and families that want to move here. We won’t be able to compete if we are not looking toward the future and electric cars and electric buses are looking toward the future.Jenny Selin – Morgantown Mayor
Selin said there’s also a public health issue posed by cars that run on an internal combustion engine. When you’re waiting in traffic you can smell the emission from cars, which is something, even her grandson complains about.
Selin said her concern is, in part, a concern for future generations. She doesn’t want to be stuck in an old way of thinking, relying on the internal combustion engine when the future demands change.
“It’s just part of becoming modern,” Selin said. “I think it’s really important to move forward, to not be rooted just in the past. And so whatever is coming forward, we need to move into that so that we can compete and so that we can enjoy having those electric vehicles and electric buses.”
The concern about future generations was, also, vocally expressed by Elizabeth Brandt, a field and special project manager with Moms Clean Air Force.
The organization, Brandt said, consists of more than a million parents across the country who are taking action on climate change. A big focus for the nonprofit is living in a world with clean air for the health of all children.
Brandt said it worries her that the same issues with pollution she had to deal with as a child are the same issues her children have to deal with in 2021.
“All the buses are idling outside and we know that that front door of the school has some dirty air and that that does bother me,” Brandt said. “But it just motivates me to do more to do my part. I think sometimes we underestimate our ability to make an individual difference. And that is the greatest mistake we can make. If you are worried about something in your community, whether it’s air quality and climate, you know the quality of your schools, you are a leader. You have to embrace your ability to make the change. I wasn’t trained to do this. This is something that I really, my daughter’s birth, brought me into, and I’m here to stay.”
Brandt said, historically, the federal government has stepped up to take on big projects such as building the interstate system and the New Deal. All of this, she said, is proof that transitioning to electric vehicles is feasible.
But she does admit that it will not be easy.
“There are some challenges in implementing electric vehicles and electric transit, but they aren’t insurmountable,” Brandt said. “They just need a good solution, so we want our leaders to really lean in and help us to get to the clean energy future.”
For his part, Del. Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia, 51) said climate change is no longer something that awaits us because it’s already here. That means, he said, the time to act is now.
“People should be aware that climate change is impacting us here in West Virginia, just like it’s impacting people out West, right now,” Hansen said. “We’ve had so many catastrophic floods in recent years, even more than we’ve ever had in the past, and that’s what’s predicted to happen by the climate models in West Virginia. And that is what’s happening, and that included the 2016 floods that killed a number of West Virginians and devastated communities. And there’s going to be more and more of those if we don’t address climate change and do our share.”
The harsh reality, Hansen said, is that West Virginia is too reliant on coal, but coal is not an energy source of the future. Plus, he said, coal is a direct contributor to the negative climate impact.
Many coal mines and businesses have shut down, gone bankrupt, or are in the process of shutting down or going bankrupt. The question then, Hansen said, isn’t whether we can save the coal industry, but how to create jobs for the future.
“The question is, how could we create even more jobs, not just for coal miners and power plant workers, but for all West Virginians,” Hansen said. “So, this is part of an all the above energy strategy that Sen. Manchin likes to talk about. An all the above strategy also embraces renewables and electric vehicles, because these jobs are going somewhere. And if they’re going somewhere we want them to come here to West Virginia.”