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Colder takes police chief oath of office in public ceremony

HUNTINGTON — In a public swearing-in ceremony on Monday afternoon, Huntington Police Chief Karl Colder outlined the road ahead of the department.

In his remarks, Colder gave thanks to officers and leadership within the police department, city of Huntington officials and community organizations for help in the transition and future collaborations between the agencies. The ceremony was at Mountain Health Arena Plaza.

“I look forward to the collaborative efforts and ... offer everything I can bring to the table,” Colder said on Monday.

Municipal Judge Gail Henderson Staples administered the oath to Colder with members of his family present. His son, Karl Colder Jr., put the chief badge around his neck. Colder gave thanks to his parents and God in his speech.

A hiring campaign to bring in a diverse group of officers will be among the tasks that Colder will lead in the near future. Colder asked for help from several national organizations in his speech, including the National Association of Black Narcotic Agents and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. After the ceremony, he said the goal would be to work with minority law enforcement organizations, some of which he is a member, to reach out to them to seek qualified candidates.

“I think its important that we open the eyes of those who want to become police officers or get engaged in the law enforcement community,” Colder said.

Mayor Steve Williams also spoke about the hiring campaign in his speech during the ceremony. Colder has both the experience and the contacts with outside organizations needed to lead the department, the mayor said.

Among his connections, Colder is a former special agent in charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington, D.C., Field Division Office.

“Chief Colder has the wherewithal, the experience and the contacts to lead an aggressive recruitment and hiring campaign, a comprehensive community policing strategy and a thoughtful program of innovation, diversity and inclusion,” Williams said. Chief Colder understands our challenges. Chief Colder embraces our values. Chief Colder is prepared to lead our police department. Chief Colder is prepared to collaborate with our citizens.”

The Huntington City Council approved the appointment of Colder to the role of chief earlier this month. So far, the transition has been going well, he said. The professionalism of the department’s officers shows, he added.

At the beginning of Monday’s ceremony, Lt. Phil Watkins said Colder has met with members of the police department as well as other regional law enforcement agencies for future partnerships. Williams said earlier this month that he plans to nominate Watkins as the department’s deputy police chief, if the city council approves the creation of the position.

“Today marks the beginning of exciting times for the police department,” Watkins said. “Chief Karl Colder carries a level of positive energy that is already being noticed throughout police headquarters.”

Among the ceremony’s speakers, representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police, U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin gave remarks to congratulate and welcome Colder to Huntington and West Virginia. Manchin also sent a state flag to the new chief.


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AP
How COVID shots for kids help prevent dangerous new variants
Scientists say vaccinating kids should not only slow the spread of the coronavirus but also help prevent potentially-dangerous variants from emerging

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Cadell Walker rushed to get her 9-year-old daughter Solome vaccinated against COVID-19 — not just to protect her but to help stop the coronavirus from spreading and spawning even more dangerous variants.

“Love thy neighbor is something that we really do believe, and we want to be good community members and want to model that thinking for our daughter,” said the 40-year-old Louisville mom, who recently took Solome to a local middle school for her shot. “The only way to really beat COVID is for all of us collectively to work together for the greater good.”

Scientists agree. Each infection — whether in an adult in Yemen or a kid in Kentucky — gives the virus another opportunity to mutate. Protecting a new, large chunk of the population anywhere in the world limits those opportunities.

That effort got a lift with 28 million U.S. kids 5 to 11 years old now eligible for child-sized doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Moves elsewhere, like Austria’s recent decision to require all adults to be vaccinated and even the U.S. authorizing booster shots for all adults on Friday, help by further reducing the chances of new infection.

Vaccinating kids also means reducing silent spread, since most have no or mild symptoms when they contract the virus. When the virus spreads unseen, scientists say, it also goes unabated. And as more people contract it, the odds of new variants rise.

David O’Connor, a virology expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, likens infections to “lottery tickets that we’re giving the virus.” The jackpot? A variant even more dangerous than the contagious delta currently circulating.

“The fewer people who are infected, the less lottery tickets it has and the better off we’re all going to be in terms of generating the variants,” he said, adding that variants are even more likely to emerge in people with weakened immune systems who harbor the virus for a long time.

Researchers disagree on how much kids have influenced the course of the pandemic. Early research suggested they didn’t contribute much to viral spread. But some experts say children played a significant role this year spreading contagious variants such as alpha and delta.

Getting kids vaccinated could make a real difference going forward, according to estimates by the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a collection of university and medical research organizations that consolidates models of how the pandemic may unfold. The hub’s latest estimates show that for this November through March 12, 2022, vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds would avert about 430,000 COVID cases in the overall U.S. population if no new variant arose. If a variant 50% more transmissible than delta showed up in late fall, 860,000 cases would be averted, “a big impact,” said project co-leader Katriona Shea, of Pennsylvania State University.

Delta remains dominant for now, accounting for more than 99% of analyzed coronavirus specimens in the United States. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why. Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said it may be intrinsically more infectious, or it may be evading at least in part the protection people get from vaccines or having been infected before.

“It’s probably a combination of those things,” he said. “But there’s also very good and growing evidence that delta is simply more fit, meaning that it’s able to grow to higher levels faster than other variants that are studied. So when people get delta, they become infectious sooner.”

Ray said delta is “a big family” of viruses, and the world is now swimming in a sort of “delta soup.”

“We have many lineages of delta that are circulating in many places with no clear winners,” Ray said, adding that it’s hard to know from genetic features which might have an edge, or which non-delta variants might dethrone delta.

“I often say it’s like seeing a car parked on the side of the road with racing slicks and racing stripes and an airfoil on the back and a big engine,” Ray said. “You know it looks like it could be a real contender, but until you see it on the track with other cars, you don’t know if it’s going to win.”

Another big unknown: Dangerous variants may still arise in largely-unvaccinated parts of the world and make their way to America even as U.S. children join the ranks of the vaccinated.

Walker, the Louisville mom, said she and her husband can’t do anything about distant threats, but could sign their daughter up for vaccination at Jefferson County Public Schools sites on a recent weekend. Solome is adopted from Ethiopia and is prone to pneumonia following respiratory ailments after being exposed to tuberculosis as a baby.

She said she wants to keep other kids safe because “it’s not good to get sick.”

As a nurse leaned in to give Solome her shot, Walker held her daughter’s hand, then praised her for picking out a post-jab sticker appropriate for a brave kid who just did her part to help curb a pandemic.

“Wonder Woman,” Walker said. “Perfect.”


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AP
Coal-fired power plants to close after new wastewater rule
Climate change isn’t what’s driving some U.S. coal-fired power plants to shut down — instead it's the expense of stricter pollution controls on their wastewater

Climate change isn’t what’s driving some U.S. coal-fired power plants to shut down. It’s the expense of stricter pollution controls on their wastewater.

Dozens of plants nationwide plan to stop burning coal this decade to comply with more stringent federal wastewater guidelines, according to state regulatory filings, as the industry continues moving away from the planet-warming fossil fuel to make electricity.

The new wastewater rule requires power plants to clean coal ash and toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and selenium from plant wastewater before it is dumped into streams and rivers. The rule is expected to affect 75 coal-fired power plants nationwide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Those plants had an October deadline to tell their state regulators how they planned to comply, with options that included upgrading their pollution-control equipment or retiring their coal-fired generating units by 2028.

The national impact of the wastewater rule is still coming into focus, but at least 26 plants in 14 states said they will stop burning coal, according to the Sierra Club, which has been tracking state regulatory filings. Twenty-one of the plants intend to shut down, and five indicated they may switch to natural gas, the environmental group said.

“The free ride these plants have been getting is ending in a lot of ways,” said Zack Fabish, a Sierra Club lawyer. “And them choosing to retire by 2028 probably reflects the reality that a lot of the subsidies they have been getting in terms of being able to dump their wastewater into the commons, they are not going to be able to do that in the future.”

The rule will reduce the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s waterways by about 386 million pounds annually, according to EPA estimates. It’s expected to cost plant operators, collectively, nearly $200 million per year to implement.

Those that intend to close include two of Pennsylvania’s largest coal-fired power plants, Keystone and Conemaugh outside Pittsburgh, which said they will stop using coal and retire all of their generating units by Dec. 31, 2028, according to regulatory notices obtained separately by The Associated Press.

The plants opened more than 50 years ago and together employ about 320 full-time workers and 170 contractors. They generate enough power for perhaps 1.5 million homes, according to industry averages for coal plants of their size.

In addition to Pennsylvania, states with power plants that plan to stop using coal by 2028 are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, the Sierra Club data shows.

Power producers that say they will shutter coal-fired units as a result of the new rule include Atlanta-based Southern Co. and Houston-based NRG. Southern, which operates electric utilities in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, said it will shutter two-thirds of its coal fleet, including units at the nation’s two largest coal-fired power plants, Scherer and Bowen, both in Georgia. NRG said it plans to stop burning coal at its domestic plants outside Texas, and install new pollution controls at its two Texas plants.

The electric power sector has spent years transitioning from coal to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas and renewables like wind and solar. Nationwide, about 30% of generating capacity at coal plants has been retired since 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration. (Coal use at power plants is expected to surge more than 20% this year because of sharply higher natural gas prices — the first such increase since 2014 — but the energy agency said it expects that trend to be temporary.)

The long-term move away from coal has been pronounced in Pennsylvania, the nation’s No. 3 coal-producing state after Wyoming and West Virginia. Coal’s share of electrical power generation in the state declined from nearly half in 2010 to 10% last year, with operators taking advantage of a statewide boom in natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, the nation’s largest gas field. Seventeen Pennsylvania coal plants have been retired since 2009.

“The smallest, oldest (coal) plants were generally the ones the economics killed first. They were too expensive and too small to be retrofitted to meet new EPA standards,” said Jean Reaves Rollins, president of The C Three Group, a market research firm focused on energy infrastructure and utilities.

She said coal plants in competitive electricity markets like Pennsylvania’s have also come under pressure. “It is clear in the case of the two Pennsylvania plants, the cost of compliance will put them out of the economic running,” she said.

Pennsylvania and neighboring Ohio have accounted for 20% of all coal-fueled power plant shutdowns in the U.S. in recent years, according to federal data.

The Keystone and Conemaugh plants are owned by a consortium of private investors, with Texas-based power producer Talen Energy also holding a stake. Talen referred questions to the plants’ chief operating officer, who did not return phone calls and emails.

Industry officials contend the mothballing of so many coal plants carries consequences for the nation’s electric grid. Michelle Bloodworth, president and CEO of America’s Power, a trade organization that advocates on behalf of coal-fueled electricity, cited recent blackouts in Texas and elsewhere as examples of “what happens when you go too far too fast.”

“We are monitoring the situation currently but we do remain concerned that overly aggressive policies that lead to the premature retirement of dispatchable generation like the coal fleet will jeopardize the reliability and resilience of the electricity grid,” Bloodworth said.

Experts have pointed out that in the case of last winter’s massive Texas blackout, most of the megawatts that went offline were generated by gas, coal and nuclear plants.

In Pennsylvania, the planned retirements of Keystone and Conemaugh come as building trade unions, industry groups and coal communities fight the state’s planned entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state consortium that imposes a price on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that use coal, gas and oil. Pennsylvania would be the first major fossil fuel state to adopt such a carbon pricing policy.

David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, an environmental group, said the closures show that “with or without policies to reduce carbon pollution, the companies who own these antiquated power plants intend to shut them down or convert many of them anyway.”

The planned shutdowns could leave Homer City Generating Station as the last large, traditional coal-fired power plant in the state still operating by decade’s end. Homer City, which is east of Pittsburgh and is the largest coal plant in Pennsylvania, has told state regulators it plans to keep operating and abide by the new wastewater limits.

Owners of shuttering plants are responsible for environmental cleanup, according to the EPA.


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