Dept. of Alternative Facts: Cost of Doing Business

Cost of Doing Business:  all expenses related to establishing a corporation, producing the product or service, disposing of any waste products related to the business, and fulfilling contract obligations

While the news cycles focus our attention on a few trending topics (e.g. health care, cyber security) and flashy headlines (e.g. the Tweet of the Day), many other important issues are out there to communicate about with our elected officials.  Sometimes, we need to put our own spin on the issue, rather than being confined to how the media or the elected officials define the topic.  And at times, we get a response that suggests that the elected official (and/or office staff), actually read what we wrote.

Speak up.  Silence is our enemy, not our elected officials or those with different opinions.


In your e-newsletter I appreciate your update on the legislation regarding pension/health care for retired coal miners. I believe that we, as a society, have a responsibility to provide for workers when their companies have failed to plan ahead to fund pension, etc.

However, this brings up a larger issue about business cycles and sectors. Our economy is usually short sighted, looking at quarterly reports (to stock holders and owners). In the past few decades, we have rapidly been transforming from a 19th/20th century industrial revolution economy to a more global and digital economy (we have actually been a global economy for over 400 years, just more so now).

In this process, use of coal as an energy source has been declining for decades. This is not the fault of President Obama, though some of his governing decision did put additional pressure on use of coal (e.g. air and water quality). But, other government decision decades before affect WV coal more (e.g. building a railroad line to the low sulfur coal fields in the Dakotas, which provided incentive to mine and transport this to power plants).

The bottom line is that some coal companies close up. From what I can gather, they did not have plans for how they were going to fund their retired workers, because they assumed that they would keep running, thus would pay for today’s retirees with the work of other employees. Once they shut down, they no longer had a revenue stream to fund their plans.

But this is the cost of doing business: assuring that your contracts to employees, creditors, and society in general are paid for. In our short sighted business cycles, companies tend to ignor future obligations. Then we the tax payers are left to pay that price.

Another area that this principle applies is the potential cost of pollution from the coal industry. If you wish to accept climate change, with the prediction of more frequent adverse weather events, might we consider the flooding in the Greenbrier region last year as a potential cost of the CO2 that coal has put intot he atmosphere?

More directly related to the coal industry is President Trump’s executive order to repeal President Obaman’s clean water initiatives by regulating upstream rivers a potential cost that coal will put on our environment? From what I can tell, President Trump promoted his order to help the coal industry. If that industry sets up situations (e.g. coal slurry ponds which could be washed into streams with some of those flood events) which it does not have funds to clean up, are the coal companies evading the cost of doing business?

I do not accept the argument that limiting regulation “saves jobs”. That is short sighted, when the company does not consider and provide for the cost of doing business in a sustainable way. What is the use of having a job today when our homes are flooded out and environment polluted tomorrow and the company that did this goes belly-up?

In response, a few weeks later, I received this e-mail.  Write-on!

Dear Mr. ,

Thank you for contacting me and sharing your thoughts regarding the environment. Hearing from West Virginians is very important to me, and I appreciate your input on this issue. 

I understand your concerns about the environment. Coal mining is an integral part of our state’s economy, and I believe we can make sure it is being done responsibly. We need to strike the right balance between protecting good-paying jobs, making sure we have clean air and clean water and truly developing a comprehensive energy plan for this nation. 

While West Virginia is best known as a coal state, we are by no means exclusively about coal. I have fought in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which I am a member, and on the Senate floor for an “all of the above” energy plan to solve our nation’s serious energy problems. In our state we’re using coal, natural gas, wind, biomass, hydro – everything we’ve got – to produce energy for this nation, and West Virginia is an example the country should follow. 

To be clear, my priorities in the Senate when it comes to mining policies are the safety of miners, the health of those I represent, the development of energy sources we have in the United States and especially West Virginia, and our country’s environment.

Again, thank you for taking the time to add your voice to this important discussion. If I may be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

With warmest regards,

United States Senator


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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5 Responses to Dept. of Alternative Facts: Cost of Doing Business

  1. Laurie Graves says:

    Well, well!

  2. Congratulations on the response from your senator. It almost sounds like he wrote it himself?! And it begs for a reply 🙂

  3. KerryCan says:

    It’s the small things–like your letter and the fact that you got a considered response–that

  4. KerryCan says:

    Oops! I meant to say they give me hope! And I want all the hope I can get!

  5. Lavinia Ross says:

    Congratulations on getting what looks like a personal response from your senator, Oscar!

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