The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

November 27, 2012

Lawmakers focus on coal downturn

Number of state miners seeking unemployment benefits has dropped

CHARLESTON — West Virginia officials estimated that joblessness among the state’s coal miners has eased as lawmakers sought favorable signs Monday for the state’s mining industry.

Around 4,740 miners have sought unemployment benefits since Jan. 1, said Russell Fry, acting executive director of WorkForce West Virginia. But about 2,220 of them did not file a claim for benefits within the past month, Fry told the House-Senate Joint Commission on Economic Development.

“These are individuals we would think may have returned to work,” said Fry, whose agency oversees the unemployment program.

Fry also noted that laid-off miners may not file any claims, choosing instead to retire or seek work in another industry.

West Virginia is the nation’s second-biggest coal producer. While mining accounts for just 5 percent of the state’s employments, those jobs tend to pay wages more than one-third higher than the state average. But such factors as cheap natural gas have slowed production in recent months, triggering mine shutdowns and layoffs.

But state Division of Energy Director John Herholdt reminded the lawmakers that American Electric Power recently announced that it did not plan to switch to the cheaper fossil fuel.

“We think the worst is behind us as far as the challenge to electricity production,” Herholdt said.

Herholdt also told the joint panel that the latest estimate has 17 billion tons of recoverable coal in West Virginia.

“We still have adequate coal for a century-plus with today’s mining techniques,” he said. “We continue to make the case to our president and Congress that coal is a viable energy resource, and we need to make sure that our nation takes advantage of this affordable, abundant resource.”

Other speakers addressed economic alternatives for the coalfields if the downturn persists or worsens. One, Bob Brown, cited the ambitious Reconnecting McDowell initiative.

The proposed five-year plan involving private companies, nonprofit groups, government agencies and others seeks to rescue that county’s ailing public schools by addressing such community ills as substandard housing, drug abuse and chronic unemployment.

McDowell was once the heart of the West Virginia coalfields, and nearly 100,000 people lived there in the 1950s when machines began replacing miners. Its population has since dwindled to 22,100. Brown said a major challenge to Reconnecting McDowell has been sufficient training and skills among its working-age adults. Finding people who can pass drugs tests has been another, Brown said.

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Woman convicted in teen’s slaying moved

    A Monongalia County teenager has been transferred to a state prison to complete her sentence for the slaying of another teenager.
    The Lakin Correctional Center near Point Pleasant said Friday Rachel Shoaf has been booked at the Division of Corrections prison. Shoaf turned 18 last month and had been held in a juvenile facility.

    July 26, 2014

  • Board suspends clinic operator’s license

    A West Virginia board Friday suspended the license of the operator of a pain management clinic where investigators found syringes were being reused. It was the second disciplinary action involving the doctor’s license within a decade.

    July 26, 2014

  • Candidates: Leave global warming debate to scientists

    Two West Virginia congressional hopefuls said during their first candidate forum matchup Thursday that the global warming debate is better left to scientists.
    Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney added that other countries should step up in reducing carbon emissions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lawsuit filed over Dirty Girl Mud Run

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn’t be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVa. man sues GM over wife's death

    A West Virginia man has filed a lawsuit against General Motors Corp., claiming a defective ignition switch in a Chevrolet Cobalt caused a 2006 accident that killed his pregnant wife.

    July 24, 2014

  • Feds commit to health studies on spilled chemical

    After largely dismissing the possibility of long-term health problems, federal officials will conduct more studies on chemicals that spilled into West Virginia’s largest drinking water supply in January.
    In the next two months, federal health officials are also heading back to West Virginia.

    July 24, 2014

  • Park Service assesses impact of W.Va. attractions

    Four National Park Service attractions in West Virginia drew a total of 1.5 million visitors last year.

    July 23, 2014

  • This weekend's 'Dirty Girl' race canceled

    Organizers of a Charleston running event that was canceled for this weekend says it won’t issue refunds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Reporter heard truck backfiring, not gunshot

    Similar sounds in different circumstances create different reactions. That is so for WVVA reporter Annie Moore, who last Monday told police someone fired a gun at her while she was shooting file footage in the area of a recent murder.

    July 19, 2014

  • Cornhole champions being decided in Charleston

    Cornhole, the strange-sounding game made popular in backyards and at football tailgate parties, is taking on a serious side this week.
    The American Cornhole Organization will crown its world champions as about 380 competitors from 17 states vie for $10,000 in prize money in singles and doubles events.

    July 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads