CHARLESTON,W.Va.– It’s estimated U.S. mines produced 110 to 112 Million tons of coal in 2013. The figure is substantially less than the tonnage extracted from the ground in 2008 and 2009. West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said the key roadblock to progress lies in Washington D. C.
“The uncertainty is being diminished and reduced, but then you always have to await the Federal Government to give the final authority on a permit,” said Raney. “They just continue to string it out and we’ve got to get that solved.”
Raney said often the permits are withheld, reviewed, or at times revoked without cause with little to no oversight or control from Congress. He said it’s a problem lawmakers need to address.
The picture doesn’t get much more optimistic for coal in 2014. Increased standards on the construction of new coal fired power plants were a huge blow in 2013, the other shoe is expected to drop this year.
“With this administration we don’t look for any relief out of them,” said Raney. “The new source performance standards will be coming out in June for existing coal fired plants. The steam market domestically is very much depressed. “
Raney acknowledged the present low price for natural gas is hurting coal, but added it isn’t a long term obstacle. He thinks the discouragement of construction of coal fired plants is the biggest threat not only to the coal industry, but to national energy security. He said the danger could be magnified if the economy truly begins to rebound.
“Ravenswood (Century Aluminum) needs to come back on line and demand in those industrial facilities needs to increase,” said Raney. “However if that happens and you suddenly have a hard winter and not necessarily this winter, but maybe next winter, people in the utility industry tell me that could be a perilous time for the national grid and more specifically the regional grid which generates electricity for the northeast.”