It’s no secret that the region’s coal industry faces challenges from many sides.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, through a report it began releasing last month, forecast that although total U.S. coal production is expected to rise after 2016, Appalachian coal will not.
“Appalachian coal production declines substantially from current levels, as coal produced from the extensively mined, higher-cost reserves of Central Appalachia is supplanted by lower-cost coal from other regions,” the EIA’s summary of a partial release of its Annual Energy Outlook 2013 states.
There is a bit of good news for part of West Virginia. The State Journal reported forecast figures show production of Northern Appalachian coal — the kind mined in northern West Virginia and northward — increasing, while the Central Appalachian coal mined in southern West Virginia and the surrounding region declining dramatically.
“An expected increase in production from the northern part of the Appalachian basin moderates the overall decline,” the forecast reads.
A battle between the industry and environmentalists over a mining practice known as mountaintop removal is a key issue in coal’s future in southern West Virgina and other areas such as eastern Kentucky. Rep. Nick Rahall on Tuesday introduced a measure to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency following an appellate court’s decision that held the EPA could revisit a permit issued earlier for the Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County.
“In recent years, the EPA has taken direct aim at the Appalachian coalfields, using and abusing seemingly every regulatory tool in their arsenal to stymie, disrupt and prevent coal mining,” the West Virginia Democrat said.
Rahall called the decision by EPA to yank the Spruce permit “their most brazen assault on coal miners’ jobs.”
On the same day, a report from Morgantown-based Downstream Strategies said government data show that production in Central Appalachia is projected to fall from 185 million tons in 2011 to 128 million tons by 2020, a 31 percent drop.
The Associated Press reported that the document titled “The Continuing Decline in Demand for Central Appalachian Coal: Market and Regulatory Influences” said the region’s production is being squeezed by economics, government regulations and even its own geology.
The report details challenges the coal industry is facing:
• Much of the the easy-to-reach coal seams have been mined out, meaning it takes more workers to keep production levels up, resulting in higher costs.
• Electric utilities are retiring coal-fired plants or upgrading plants to burn cheaper natural gas.
• There is competition from high-producing western mines that can mine coal at a cheaper price. Central Appalachia’s production was passed by western states, namely Wyoming, in the 1990s.
• Tougher federal regulations are being enforced by the Obama administration.
Indeed, the challenges are significant.
It’s important to realize, though, that circumstances can change.
As recently as October of 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek magazine reported that “despite starting salaries of $70,000, mining companies face a recruiting crunch as young people in coal country opt to stay above ground,” though it conceded that “demand for miners could wane if the global economy relapses into recession, which would cut steel consumption and demand for electricity. Environmental Protection Agency regulations also could cut use of coal, limiting the need to hire more miners.”
Administrations and policies in the United States do change. Abundant, low-cost energy has always fueled economic growth, and the country’s enormous coal reserves — mined safely and responsibly and burned cleanly, with associated technology adequately supported and developed — must be a part of the total energy picture for decades to come.
Such policy won’t erase the challenges faced by the coal industry, but it would give it a chance to succeed. That’s all we ask.
It’s no secret that the region’s coal industry faces challenges from many sides.
Laws to keep mudslinging to minimum can stife free speech
By nature, and by profession, we do not like lies. As journalists, we’re truth tellers. Or at least we attempt to get at the truth through research, attribution, documents and comments from people on either side of an issue.
Sometimes it ends up with “telling lies from both sides,” as a crusty reporter once mused a handful of years ago.
COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay
Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.
The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings
During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.
Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated
Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
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