CLARKSBURG — Rep. David McKinley came to Clarksburg on Monday to talk about infrastructure and energy with members of the state Chamber of Commerce and the West Virginia Manufacturers Association.
In a conference room at Stockmeier Urethanes, McKinley fielded questions during a morning roundtable. He gave a brief history of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and described what it can bring to West Virginia.
Upgrading the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure was a priority when he took office in 2011, he said. “We’ve known all along we’ve got to do something.” It was discussed during the Obama era but no action was taken. President Trump said it was a priority but he put his tax bill first and by the time that passed the GOP lost the majority.
Under President Biden, he said, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito rebooted the conversation and established the momentum for passage. “Finally we have an infrastructure bill.”
He paid a political price, McKinley said. While passage was bipartisan, his GOP leaders urged him to vote against it. But he voted for it and his GOP leadership is backing Rep. Alex Mooney, the other incumbent in the May primary because Mooney and Rep. Carol Miller both voted against it. (Sen. Joe Manchin joined McKinley and Capito to vote for it.)
“There was no decision to be made,” he said. “I was voting for West Virginia.”
The bill will bring somewhere from $6 billion to $8 billion to the state, he said, for roads and bridges, water and sewer, broadband, Abandoned Mine Lands acid mine drainage projects and more.
Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner talked about his town’s crumbling infrastructure, including clay pipes that need to be replaced. “We can’t grow as a state unless we have those issues taken care of.”
McKinley talked about the tiny hamlet of Paw Paw, with a water system serving 230 people, that needs $11.5 million worth of upgrading. Without the infrastructure bill, the residents couldn’t afford it, and that’s just one example.
On the energy front, the people around the table talked about the war in Ukraine, escalating fuel prices and Biden’s green policies that hamper U.S. energy independence and the nation’s ability to provide fuel to its allies.
“He shut off the tap,” McKinley said. “Open the valve again.” He added later, “Let’s build the damn pipelines.”
McKinley joined the others in praising the Legislature’s passage of SB 4, the bill to lift the ban on nuclear energy development. With many coal-fired plants nearing the end of their lifespans, advanced nuclear technology using microreactors and small modular reactors offer possible means to repurpose the plants or plant footprints.
The discussion touched lightly now and again on the McKinley-Mooney primary race. When the roundtable ended, it went full political as everyone gathered outside so the Chamber and WVMA could jointly announce their endorsement of McKinley.
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