As the coal industry continues to experience lay-offs, competition, and set-backs, there's a new concern about the Environmental Protection Agency that could mean a bigger hit on jobs in our region.
Coal country is nothing like it was 41 years ago when Stanley Sturgill began working as a coal miner. a once thriving business may be hitting rock bottom. "It's sad to see all these young people out of work nowadays," Sturgill told us.
As more miners get pink slips, many no longer consider the jobs stable. "I've got a son that works in the mining industry. I didn't want to go into it," said Edgar Baker, another retired coal miner we talked to.
We found out, the industry in our region could be taking yet another blow.
After a federal appeals court sides with the Environmental Protection Agency, declining permits for one West Virginia's largest mountaintop removal mines, executive director of the Eastern Coal Council, Barbara Altizer told us, that's sending a message to coal companies trying to meet new federal requirements. "The EPA comes back and says what you do's not good enough. We've got to give you some more hoops to jump through. You can't do that," said Altizer.
Why not? Altizer said it creates uncertainty among coal companies. "It's going to impact us in jobs. It's unfortunate, but there will be job losses," Altizer explained.
Combine that with continued low prices for natural gas, and the coal industry has a tough road ahead.
But we learned as our economy begins to recover, there may be hope. "A strong economy has to have affordable and dependable energy, and coal is going to be part of that mix. There is no way to meet all of the energy needs without coal being a mayor player," said Altizer.
For those living in coal country, that hope is worth holding on to. "That would mean everything to me, to see it go back to the way it was," said Stanley Sturgill.
"It's what we survive on," Baker said.
Another continuing concern we discovered for those in the coal business; its impact to related businesses.
Both Norfolk Southern Railroad and CSX have reported a weak demand for transporting coal.