Senator Ben Chafin’s Weekly General Assembly Update January 26th

The 45-day General Assembly Session is continuing at a rapid pace with legislation quickly moving through the committee process.  Many visitors and constituents from Southwest Virginia will make the trip to Richmond this week.  On Thursday, January 26th, the Southwest Virginia Coalfield Counties’ Annual Reception will take place here in Richmond.  It is a wonderful event that helps highlight the region while the General Assembly is in session.

With the sharp decline in the coal industry, we have been working to diversify the economy in Southwest Virginia and create new industries.  Together with Delegate Kilgore, I am carrying legislation to fast track the construction of multiple hydro pump storage facilities in the coalfield counties.  My colleagues and I have been in discussions with power utility companies in Virginia about their interest in building hydro pump storage facilities.  My legislation will streamline the regulatory process and break down the burdensome barriers for companies to invest in Southwest Virginia.

The construction of two hydro pump facilities in Southwest Virginia could create over 2000 construction jobs over several years and up to 100 long term high paying jobs to run the facilities.  The new facilities will also create much needed tax revenue for the coalfield counties.  Hydro pump storage works with one reservoir of water at the top and bottom of a hill or mountain.  Water is released from the upper reservoir to travel down underground pipes and spin massive turbines at the base of the mountain or hill.  The near instant generation of power created from this type of energy production helps utilities meet peak demands and prevent brown outs to their customers.

We are excited to continue our work to create jobs in Southwest Virginia and spur new investment.  My legislation to help build hydro pump storage facilities will be a big boost to the region and our efforts to diversify the economy.

Every year during the General Assembly Session, it is my goal to fight for coal miners and the coal industry.  While we are working to diversify the economy in Southwest Virginia, protecting coal is always a priority.  During this session, I am carrying several pieces of legislation to support coal and coal miners.

Under Virginia Worker’s Compensation law, coal miners are able to apply for benefits for black lung in addition to the federal black lung benefits.  My Senate Bill 1489 will help make it more likely for deserving coal miners to receive worker’s compensation benefits for black lung.  Coal miners and their families deserve the benefits afforded to them under state and federal law.  One of the several provisions to help miners creates a presumption of benefits if the miner has worked underground for over 15 years.  Also, the bill will increase the likelihood of a family receiving benefits if it is determined a coal miner passed away due to complications with black lung.  Mining coal is a tough and dangerous occupation.  It is my duty to fight for coal miners and their families and I am honored to carry legislation to help them.

For several years now, I have carried legislation to extend the coal tax credits.  Unfortunately, the bill is always vetoed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and voted down by Senate Democrats. However, I will not stop fighting for Southwest Virginia and coal.  I have introduced the legislation again to preserve coal jobs and help make Virginia coal more competitive in the market.  It is estimated that the bill could save or create up to 500 jobs in the coalfields.  Also, the bill will help Virginia coal to be utilized in Virginia electric power facilities, such as the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center in St. Paul.  We are hopeful we can reach a compromise with the Governor and Senate Democrats to get the bill passed to fight for coal.

Thank you for your continued support. It is an honor to represent Southwest Virginia in the General Assembly. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your questions and comments during session. You can contact my office by phone at 276-889-1044 or by email at  Be on the lookout for my weekly General Assembly Session update in your local paper and on my Facebook page.

Best regards,
Ben Chafin

The 38th Senatorial District includes all of Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Pulaski, Russell, and Tazewell Counties, the Cities of Norton and Radford, and portions of Montgomery, Smyth, and Wise Counties.

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