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Gov. Justice calls federal response to Mylan plant closure ‘pitiful’

MORGANTOWN – The Dominion Post asked Gov. Jim Justice Wednesday if he’d received a response to his recent letter to President Joe Biden about saving the Viatris pharmaceutical plant in Morgantown.

In reply, Justice vented his frustration not once, but twice. But he also said that Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is working on a bill that could help draw a new company.

“I am really, really disappointed by the federal response in regard to the catastrophe that is going on there in Morgantown,” he said.

Justice wrote to Biden July 27 – four days before what is still called the Mylan plant was set to close – asking Biden to “do anything within your power to help secure 1,500 essential jobs in West Virginia and to ensure the continued capability and capacity to produce vital pharmaceuticals here in the U.S.”

He pointed out that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency had designated the industry as essential early in the pandemic and asked Biden to confirm just how essential the domestic pharmaceutical industry is.

Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Sen. Joe Manchin and McKinley had all received letters from CISA on July 30 confirming that the critical infrastructure designation remained in place for the plant, though no one knows quite what that might accomplish.

Justice said Wednesday, “The people will never know how hard we’ve tried. We have flipped absolutely every rock I know how to flip.”

He didn’t know if the federal delegation could accomplish more, but said the federal response has been nowhere close to where it needs to be.

The Mylan plant was producing pharmaceuticals “the best of the best of the best of the best. And now we’re going to farm that out to India, where the dependability is marginal at best,” he said. “And we’re going to expose the United States and the people of this country. We’re going to put that trust in India. I mean, give me a break. What in the world is wrong with us? Why are we not plowing the ground every way we can to save that plant?”

He knows the congressional delegation has been pushing, but didn’t know if they could push harder, he said, and didn’t know how the state could push harder.

He admitted he would be quoted on this: “In all honesty, I think it’s pitiful, pitiful, absolutely pitiful” that the federal government is sitting on the sidelines.

He returned to the Mylan issue during his briefing wrap-up.

“We’re not ready to quit,” he said. “We’re not ready to lay down our pens.”

He said he met with McKinley recently and they reviewed various scenarios to keep the plant operating. McKinley told him he’s experienced some pushback to run a separate Mylan-related bill that could be tacked on to a larger piece of legislation (as is often done in Congress).

“He needs your help,” Justice said.

Justice also said conversations are going on that he can’t disclose but could solve the riddle in another way. “We’re not going to quit working.”

McKinley’s office acknowledged that he’s working on a bill to incentivize companies in critical manufacturing sectors like pharmaceutical manufacturing to locate in abandoned or closed facilities.

The legislation is in draft form, his office said, but will be similar to a bill they introduced in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017. They were called the Manufacturing Economic Recovery Act. This version is being retooled specifically with the Mylan situation in mind.

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