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Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
Charles Town, West Virginia
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January 9, 2019     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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January 9, 2019
 

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I PAGE A4 SPIRIT of JEFFERSON Wednesdaz January 9, 20i9 NEWS and ~ARMER'S ADVOCATE ROCKWOOL PROJECT By TIM COOK SPecial to the Spirit CHARLES TOWN - What's 'ahead with Rock- wool? Jefferson County Commis- sioners sat down with Del- egates Sammi Brown (D- District 65), Paul Espino- sa (R-District 66) and John Doyle (D-District 67) to talk . about the controversial stone- wool insulation manufactur- ing plant that has been under construction for eight months in Ranson. "You saw what happened to the county commission for the past year,' Commission- ' ,~ er Josh Compton said to open ," the discussion. "Our residents ""- and ask for help to stop the factory. "What legislation would you propose that would fix are not happy, I guess. And a lot of that notion is the state brought down a lot of this on our backs." After breaking ground in the potential mistake that Another bill, he continued, June, the Danish company occurred with Rockwool?" would require any compa- obtained air pollution emis- Compton asked the delegates, ny proposing to invest more sions permits from regula- "What bill would you pro- than $10 million in a plant or tors and met other legal and pose that doesn't come across business or that would oper- regulatory obligations ahead as anti-business for the state ate a "physical plant" with a ' of starting production in the of West Virginia?" footprint of more than 25,000 summer of 2020. In July, a Doyle, who campaigned in square feet would have to year after officials first an- opposition to the Rockwool hold a public hearing about nounced that Rockwool had factory, said he is develop- the venture. selected Jefferson Coun- ing four bills to introduce at Askedby Compton whether ty for its second U.S. manu- the 60-day legislative session Doyle had legislation to pro- facturing plants, hundreds of that begins today. He said he pose that would specifically county residents began to ex- was prepared to describe two take action on the Rockwool press alarm, insisting that the of those bills, factory now under construc- 460,000-square-foot facility One bill, he said, would re- tion, Doyle responded: "It all " would harm the community, quire industrial permit appli- depends how long this plays Citizens flooded JCC meet- cants to place legal notices in out. A permit is a permit un- ings to voice their opposition both print- "it would have to til it's over. If we would get be in at least 12-point type"- a change in the law and there and on digital platforms. "So would be a given permit that, that people would know what say, would extend beyond that was going on," he added, limit and they would have to %# %. i~~, in this ad . 0 0, Ii r,SERVICE, i AT OUR CHARLES TOWN LOCATnON. ,l~/l~ ,/our Jefferson County's House of Delegates members and members of the Jefferson County Commission including (from left) Delegates Samml Brown, John Doyle and Paul Espinosa and{below from left) JCC members Patsy Noland, Ralph Lorenzetti, Josh Compton, Caleb Wayne Hudson and Jane Tabb spent an hour last week talking about the Rockwool factory underway in Ranson and issues related to future industry. The legislative session begins today in Charleston. apply again, then I think there "West Virginia workers get is a pretty decent chance that West Virginia jobs." the new application would Brown said the Legislature have to be under whatever can "empower" the JCC to new rules there were. shape development projects "But that is all I can say. I through Home Rule, a pilot am not a lawyer." program initiated by the Leg- Doyle agreed with Comp- islature giving local govern- ton and Commissioner Ralph ments more self-governing Lorenzetti, the former coun- authority. ty prosector who unseated "We'll also make sure you incumbent Peter Onoszko in have everything you need to November by vowing to op- have the community's input pose the Rockwool factory in so that you can make a more any way possible, that state holistic decision going for- officials played a strong role ward," she said, "and we will in bringing the Rockwool back you up on that. That's factory to Jefferson County. how we're going to do this - "This was sent to you by together." Charleston," Doyle said. Compton, after listening to "This is not something that Doyle and Brown, respond- any of you bear the responsi- ed with a summary: "Just one bility for going out and get- quick thing: So in your eyes, ring." not much can be done about Brown said her views on Rockwool, you think? Going Rockwool centered on "con- forward, as you all laid out, cern for the community and going forward things can be then health and safety stan- done, but as we are right now dards." She said her priorities it's going to be pretty tough include promoting "transpar- to stop Rockwool, per se." ency," developing health as- Doyle said he is hopeful sessments for local industri- about the Jan. 2 decision by al development projects and the Maryland Board of Public "reconfiguring" air emissions Works, a three-member body permits, that includes Maryland Gov. Brown, Doyle and Espino- Larry Hogan, that denies an sa mentioned directly and in- easement to allow a gas sup- directly PILOT (Payments In ply company to lay a pipe- Lieu Of Tax) agreements that line under the Potomac River. the JCC, county school board That pipeline would supply and others approved last year, gas to businesses and homes giving Rockwool tax breaks in the Eastern Panhandle, in- as an economic development cluding potentially the Rock- incentive, wool factory. "I do feel like you were put Doyle called the easement under foot," Brown said. "I rejection "a significant vic- don't feel like you were giv- tory for the people fighting en everything you needed Rockwool." to make the most sound de- ',That will is one of the cision, and I think you were things that could result in a trying your very best to bring long enough delay so that development to Jefferson new legislation would in fact County. However, the tem- be viable," he said. perature in the community Saying the state officials and the divisiveness that has often dictate too many of the come as part of this project terms of local economic de- we cannot ignore, regardless velopment projects, Loren- of how you feel about devel- zetti said the county needs opment." to be wary of companies that That Rockwool is building accept tax breaks and then near low-income schools is a move their operations after sore point in the community, those tax breaks expire. Brown said. "So I'm a little concerned A former labor organizer, about the current national cli- Brown mentioned the im- mate and the Charleston cli- portance of state government mate for what type industries promoting safe workplaces, that we get," he said. "I'm She said she would like to afraid that the whole system promote development where doesn't have upfront notice to the people of what we're getting." Espinosa said he doesn t see legislation that would make it harder to attract busi- nesses and jobs to West Vir- ginia likely to gain traction. He also said finding sympa- thetic lawmakers from oth- er counties to address Rock- wool legislation might be challenging. Most other state lawmakers and counties would welcome such development, said Es- pinosa, set to begin his third term. But Doyle - first elect- ed to the Legislature in the early 1990s and now return- ing after a six-year absence - challenged that notion. Doyle said he has encoun- tered lawmakers from Mor- gan, Hardy and Hampshire counties and elsewhere who t r told him they wouldn't ac- cept the Rockwool factory with open arms. At one point, Espinosa asked the JCC what legisla- tion they thought could help "unwind" the Rockwool sit- uation. "As I understand it, you essentially have an entity that has, I believe, complied with all state, local and fed- eral laws," he said. Compton replied: "As far as we stand on Rockwool, I think all of us can collective- ly say, it's going to be quite hard to do something to some entity that has followed the law thus far, so it seems," he said. "There are court cas- es, obviously, which are, we don't know what is going to happen with those." Espinosa, tapped as the new majority whip in the Legisla- ture, said some support would exist among state lawmakers to "transition away" from PI- LOT agreements. Espinosa and Doyle said they would support some measure of a corporate tax re- peal, but Doyle said a limited version focusing on retail in- ventory taxes might draw the most support. But the law- makers agreed that replacing the lost tax revenue would be critical, and likely difficult. Brown said Jefferson Coun- ty's reaction to Rockwool has made the county "a conver- sation starter in the state of West Virginia" over what is appropriate development. "This could change the face of how we develop, and it could be in a positive way or it could be in a way that it continues to be detrimental," she offered. Commission President Pat- sy Noland, delegates and commissioners talked about how important all tax rev- enues are to local govern- ments, while Compton said Jefferson needs to keep its lo- cal taxes low to compete for residents. "We have to increase our tax base," Noland said. "We can't continue to operate the way we're operating and ex- pect to be able to provide the services the way that people live here expect, with the way thing are structured now. Noland said Jefferson Coun- ty needs to create more "liv- ing wage" jobs that provide a middle-class lifestyle and de- velop an economy that allows people to work as well as live in the community, rather than commute long hours to the Washington metro area. Doyle agreed, adding that the county has an opportu- nity to draw new office jobs from companies likely to be displaced by Amazon's new headquart.ers coming to Crys- tal City, Va. "We have an op- portunity that we haven't had before," he said. Brown asked the JCC what kind of businesses the Legis- lature should work to help the county attract. Compton misunderstood the question, saying he doesn't support raising any taxes. "We're not trying to impose more taxes on our own folks," Brown corrected. "No, no, no. But just in general ideas of what were you thinking, if we had any. If not, we could come back to it." "You put us on the spot here," Compton responded, half jokingly. "So sorry - I thought this was a conversation," Brown replied. "I thought we were talking?" "Let's move to MARC train?" Compton interjected, moving ahead to another sub- ject on the JCC agenda. His quip evoked laughter from the room. Noting the Rockwool dis- cussion had already gone on for an hour, Noland promptly changed the topic to the com- muter train's declining rider- ship and funding woes.