West Virginia House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, a Republican, spoke to Fox News on Tuesday in a phone interview about Rep. Sean Casten’s, D-Ill., recent comment disparaging the economic role of the state in the national economy.
Hanshaw called Casten’s remark “an extraordinarily disappointing statement to hear from any member of the United States Congress” and said that, while West Virginia is “41st in size,” that fact “hardly” makes the state “irrelevant.”
“This is an energy state here in West Virginia. We’ve powered the United States of America since before the founding of this country,” Hanshaw told Fox News. “The fossil energy that has been extracted from this state powered the industrial revolution. It generated power and electricity for this country for generations.”
“And we certainly recognize that we are an economy in transition here in West Virginia now, much as is the national economy, but we are far from irrelevant,” the Mountain State speaker continued. “And that’s a disappointing sentiment to hear any member of Congress say about our fellow Americans.”
Additionally, Hanshaw said the people of West Virginia are not “naive,” that they understand they will have to and “want to play a role” in the economy’s transition into a greener model, and that their state government is making moves to “better position” the state in the renewable energy sector.
“But we also recognize that we are not an irrelevant part of the economy and that, until technology is such that we can completely power the country and world on renewable sources, that we still have to maintain baseload power generation here in the United States,” Hanshaw said.
“We have a role to play in that,” he continued. “Representative Casten’s constituents would be disappointed if electricity stopped flowing to their homes when baseload power generation suddenly became unavailable.”
The speaker also said that Casten’s comments “about West Virginia being irrelevant seem to have been made in frustration” and that he hopes the congressman “doesn’t genuinely believe that a sovereign state of this union is irrelevant.”
Hanshaw also invited Casten “to come to West Virginia if he believes that we’re irrelevant.”
“Come to Martinsburg, West Virginia, where you can see distribution warehouses for some of the largest retailers in America sitting within an overnight’s drive of 70% of the consumers in this country,” the speaker said.
“Come visit the petrochemical industry along the Ohio River where you can see fossil compounds being extracted from the earth, piped into West Virginia and made into some of the feedstock that feeds consumer goods for export all over the world,” Hanshaw continued.
“We are not an irrelevant part of the economy and I would hope that he would walk back those comments,” he added.
Casten’s remarks spurred ire from Republicans in the West Virginia congressional delegation, with the lawmakers speaking out against the Illinois Democrat’s jab.
Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., torched Casten’s comment as “the latest example of how out of touch Washington Democrats are with hardworking families in West Virginia and across the country.”
“This isn’t just about West Virginia, this is about every community that’s being left behind and forced to pay the bill for radical socialist policies,” Miller told FOX Business in a Monday email statement.
Casten’s office did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene.