SHEPHERDSTOWN — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey visited the eastern Panhandle over the weekend, talking about ways the state can boost its economy.

Morrisey was the keynote speaker March 18 for an Economic Summit at Shepherd University.

“Some of the statistics we have in the state are quite dire and we need to change it. We are one of the largest energy producers in the United States,” Morrisey said, according to an article from The Journal in Martinsburg. “We’re strategically located — from a geographic perspective — literally within 10 hours of 180 million people.”

He also talked about how his office has challenged federal mandates, such as the Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan.”

“That was ensuring the federal government couldn’t come right in and simply regulate us,” he said. “Everyone must be responsive to our laws in the state and in the country, so when we filed the lawsuit … that was designed to ensure changes to how states managed their energy resources is done in a lawful manner.”

Morrisey also talked about the state’s drug epidemic.

“When you think about jobs and economic activities here in West Virginia, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that we have the largest drug overdose death rate in the United States,” Morrisey said. “We’re not going to grow if we don’t do something.

“We’re going to make sure entities in the pharmaceutical supply chain adhere to the state’s consumer protector laws. We recently formed a partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District to allow us to pursue a number of criminal matters.”

Morrisey’s appearance at the event also drew protests.

Several members of eastern Panhandle groups were on hand to highlight Morrisey’s “troubling record on workers’ rights, the opioid addiction crisis, environmental protection and civil rights.” Organizers said about 100 people took part in the peaceful protest.

“Attorney General Patrick Morrisey promises to solve the opioid crisis, yet continues to let the pharmaceutical industry, with which he is intimately connected, flood West Virginia with pain pills,” said Mary Burch Nichols, Executive Director of CompassionWV.

“West Virginians deserve a State Attorney's office that supports the people and resources of our state,” said Tracy Riordan, with Vigilance of Jefferson County. “We need someone who knows how to stand up to big corporate interests, while standing up for the individual's rights. Patrick Morissey has repeatedly proven that he is not that person.”

“Attorney General Morrisey is notorious nationwide for being an ally of polluters who threaten public health, and for being a leader in the obstructionist lawsuit to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, our landmark national climate safeguard,” said Shepherdstown resident Mary Anne Hitt, of Sierra Club. “Morrisey’s environmental agenda is as extreme as they come, and he’s not just making it easier to dump pollution in West Virginia, but he’s threatening the safety of all Americans affected by the climate crisis.”

"The Eastern Panhandle Young Democrats are encouraged by the increased focus on our elected officials’ actions and positions on issues critical to our state,” said Emma Lindsey-Severns of the Eastern Panhandle Young Democrats. “We hope this event will help educate citizens of all ages and inspire them to get involved in West Virginia politics on all levels."

Morrisey commented on the event later on Facebook.

“Enjoyed my visit to Shepherd University today to discuss how my Office can facilitate the removal of barriers to economic growth,” he posted. “We discussed reducing regulatory burdens and the importance of fighting against substance abuse.

“Great visit! And a special thanks to all of the protestors who came by (both for and against). We are a wonderful country that should encourage civil debate. That's why I have held about 75 town halls and another 60 public meetings since I took office. We will keep working for the people.”

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