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Loss Of Coal Production May Create A Major Loss Of Tax Revenue

Jeff Young
Ohio Valley Resource
A coal barge makes its way down the Ohio River. An MIT white paper has found that in Greene County, a loss of coal production may result in a tax deficit.

On today's program: The lead author of an MIT white paper explains how slowed coal production in Greene County translates to a loss of jobs and tax revenue; residents of long-term care facilities are still waiting for some “normalcy” after vaccination; and ahead of her talk with Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures, poet Naomi Shihab Nye tells us how poetry can help her find clarity.


Slowing coal production also means slowing tax revenue in Greene County

(0:00 — 6:14) 

National production of coal decreased about 37% between 2008 and 2016.

The current and expected decline in coal production remains a contentious topic. But it doesn’t simply translate to lost coal workers’ jobs: It can mean lost tax revenue for counties that might not have a plan on how to make up the deficit. Greene County is experiencing this scenario

“The coal industry plays a pretty big role in Greene County’s economy,” says Caroline White-Nockleby, the lead author of a white paper from MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative Here & Real Project that looked into this issue.  “Employment in the [coal] industry has decreased from around 3,800 jobs to around 2,800 direct jobs in the past five years. They also have a big role in the tax base. Coal companies pay taxes on the value of the coal itself that’s underground, and they also pay property taxes.”

“At the county level, the largest coal companies provide about a third of county tax revenue,” says White-Nockleby of Greene County. She says gas companies, on the other hand, provide about 1% of Greene County’s tax revenue, even though fracking has been increasing.

When thinking about a “Just Transition” from the coal industry, counties and public officials need to think about supporting the communities, not just those who have lost jobs. 

Long-term care residents may be vaccinated, but aren’t yet back to ‘normal’ life
(6:18 — 11:00)

More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in Pennsylvania have been among residents of long-term care facilities—such as assisted living and nursing homes. People who live in these communal settings tend to be elderly and medically fragile, which is why they were prioritized for vaccinations. 

At this point, the vast majority of these facilities have held vaccine clinics, but 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports that life is still far from normal.

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye on how poetry can offer clarity
(11:09 — 20:20)

Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing poetry all her life since she was six years old.

Her latest book, “Everything Comes Next,” pulls her most popular pieces into one volume, along with some new ones. 

“I just wrote about the little things in my life, you know what I would see, what I would think, what I would feel, and the exciting unfolding of the world around me,” says Nye. “Already I had a sense that poetry was a good place to do that.”

She calls herself a “wandering poet,” as much of her work has been visiting other cities and communities to teach and write with students and adults. 

“I think I felt that there was something connected to the spirit of poetry in all the wandering,” says Nye. “I believe poetry lives everywhere, the possibilities for art and literature are everywhere.”

 Nye says poetry can also offer “an attentive spirit to the goodness that we do have.”  

“You never hear anybody say they were trying to write a poem and now they feel worse,” says Nye. She says even if the poem writing doesn’t work out, something interesting happens when you work on or read poetry. “A focus, clarity, something better,” says Nye.

Nye will be speaking virtually today, as part of the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series, “Words and Pictures” and “Poets Aloud.”

You can listen to Nye reading her poem, “Grocery Store” in the podcast.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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