News Service Mar. 6, 2009, 8:35am
Chesapeake Energy made it official last week: the company is pulling up stakes and leaving West Virginia.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper made it official, too: he'll never be mistaken for a businessman.
Those of us without taxpayer-guaranteed salaries and pensions may fret the loss of a large corporate employer. But Carper, snug as a bug with "30 years of public service" under his taxpayer-funded, recession-be-damned belt, used the bad news as an excuse to sound off like a two-bit Hugo Chavez.
"Chesapeake broke their promise to the people of West Virginia," Carper said. "The lesson to be learned from this is that the Legislature needs to make companies like this pay their fair share of what they make by taking our natural resources."
He needs to learn a lesson. When your county loses 215 private-sector jobs -- with soaring unemployment poised to get worse --elected leaders would better reflect the citizenry's feelings with expressions of regret, disappointment, and understanding. Learning from governing mistakes and vowing not to make them again, seems more appropriate than beating up a business.
In this instance, West Virginia's courts, not its Legislature, went out of its way to make sure Chesapeake paid its "fair share," as Mr. Carper puts it. About the time the company announced plans to build a regional headquarters in Charleston, a Roane County jury gave Chesapeake a Mountain State-style welcome present: a $404 million verdict that it couldn't appeal.
With that, Chesapeake CEO and Oklahoman Aubrey McClendon had seen enough. Trying to grow a business in a state which seems dedicated to fattening the ranks of trial lawyers is to be avoided, he apparently concluded. So he is leaving West Virginia. Others could point to his experience and follow his lead or never even give us a chance.
The lesson you need to learn from Chesapeake Energy, Mr. Carper, is about catching more flies with honey. If you want business and jobs in your community, stow your anti-business vitriol.
There was a group of winners during the company's abbreviated stay. Trial lawyers extracted hundreds of millions from Chesapeake. Maybe they'll hire one or two of the dozens of West Virginians losing their jobs.