MADISON, W.Va. — Boone County Commissioner Mickey Brown said last week’s news that Alpha Natural Resources sent out WARN notices to 1,100 employees took him by surprise.

It’s no secret the coal industry is under fire from the Obama administration with proposed EPA limits on carbon emissions. However, Brown said it was a punch to the gut.

“It not only affects the coal company, it affects everything around from the grocery store to the filling stations to schools,” he said.

Two out of the 11 mines mentioned in the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification are located in Boone County, Black Castle Mining’s surface mine and Independence Coal’s Twilight surface mine.

Alpha blames the possible layoffs on a weak coal market and coal-fired power plants shutting down because of new environmental regulations. The company is reevaluating how to best operate in these tough economic times. Brown said the county commission will have to do the same.

“We lose coal severance money and then we also lose tax money from their equipment if they’re going to move out,” said Brown.

That means there’s less money for county salaries, improvement projects and even new equipment for the sheriff’s department. The commissioner said the positive economic projects happening in Boone County always seem to be overshadowed by news like Alpha’s.

“Things were moving pretty good. We’ve got a new hospital being built in (Madison). We’re doing the best we can to keep the county clean in order to spur people to move into the area. But without employment, we just have people moving out.”

The county currently employs a handful of former miners who lost their jobs. Brown said they’re a great addition to the county payroll.

“They do water projects. They build buildings; do electrical work, general maintenance. They’re jacks of all trades,” the commissioner said.

While the county would like to hire more workers like them, that’s just not possible.

“We’re at the point right now where we have to watch every penny that we spend.”

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  • DP

    What has made coal so important to this state is what makes diversity in our state almost impossible: The topography within our borders! I've been to each of the 55 counties in our state, and with the exception of 6-8 of them, there is NOT ENOUGH flat land on which to build large manufacturing plants (such as Toyota). Combined with lack of infrastructure, WV is just not very appealing to out of state companies moving all (or some) of their operations here.

    MOST of those who are insistent on the need for WV to get out of the coal business seem to be completely unaware that every coal mining job generates AT LEAST 6-8 other jobs. Sadly, most miners (and those businesses dependent on them) are left with few options.

    Prior to his elections, the Bystander/Fundraiser in Chief made ABSOLUTELY CLEAR his intentions regarding coal. Unfortunately, Far Left Wing Hacks such as Nicky Jo Rahall and Natalie Tennant both supported and campaigned for him in 2008 and 2012! Now these two Lemmings are doing EVERYTHING to distance themselves from him-WHAT DISGUSTING HYPOCRITES!!!!!

  • Jack Mehoff

    Alpha did Obama a favor.

  • Frank

    I hear you, but correct me if I'm wrong ... I thought the UMWA did NOT endorse Obama in 2012. I know they did in 2008 but not 2012. That says something right there. Its no wonder a Texas convict beat Nobama in 10 WV counties in the primary. How pathetic. The War on Coal is REAL. Time for all Democrat cronies and Obama sucks to be retired.

    • Dumb Liberals

      Check their financials and cross reference the UMWA officers names to the m0r0n's campaign finances. You have to remember, democrats, (d)'s, liberals, socialists are experts in funneling moneys in the back door.

      • I'm honest at least

        Open your eyes idiot. Republicans are pretty good at it too. You don't have a clue.

        • I'm honest at least

          No I would say you are the idiot. I'm saying 90% of politicians are crooks......Party lines mean nothing.

        • Dumb Liberals

          So by your own admission the liberals are corrupt. Thank you for proving my point - IDIOT!

  • WVcoal

    Lots of good paying jobs and job opportunities in Northern Virginia.

    • Dumb Liberals

      Isn't that where the UMWA headquarters are? I believe they are on US Rt1 in Triangle, VA. Lots of high dollar vehicles in their parking lot. Bought and paid for by union dues of the union brethren. Quite a few with m0r0n decals on them.

  • Gary Karstens

    Time to diversify the WV economy. We can't keep polluting the air that the world breathes. YEESH! It is time for a new and better era in WV. Time will prove that President Obama's initiatives will make WV a better place. We must do this for the CHILDREN!!!!!!

    • Aaron

      It's easy to say it's time to diverisfy but quite another to elaborate. Why don't you try the 2nd one Gary. I got to yeesh's that says you can't.

    • Richard Hertzer

      ..We'll all be drinkin that free bubble -up, and eating that rainbow stew...

  • Rick

    STRAIGHT TICKET VOTING no matter who is on the ballot!!! Maybe the voters will become more informed now!!!

  • cutty77

    You can't blame everything on the President. WV is almost last in EVERYTHING IN THE COUNTRY. Look at The Clowns that are at The State House. I don't blame people i would get the hell of out of that part of the State too.

  • Aaron

    There is a reason that the area that would eventually become West Virginia was part of the last to settle in colonial America. It's the same reason that mountainous regions worldwide have often lagged behind lowlands in terms of economic development and prosperity. For all the talk diversifying southern West Virginia, besides coal, there simply isn't any good reasons why businesses would locate there.

    The only reason the area was as populated as it was in the late 19th and early 20 century was coal. Without coal, railways would have routed into southern West Virginia and without coal, there is no reason for businesses to locate in that part of the state.

    Moving out is probably the best thing southern West Virginians can do.

  • WestByGod

    Can't help but remember a time seven yrs. ago, there was a coal miners convention in Morgantown. I was walking through the parking lot at Lakeview Resort when i saw a bumper sticker that read, "coal miners for obama", had to chuckle.
    Thank you obama!!!

    • Jumbo

      Be careful what you pray for. You might get it .

  • rick

    Does anyone remember what McDowell County was in the past and what it is now? The EPA had nothing to do with that. Once you mine all the good coal and no one wants to buy what you have left...the coal companies move out. The EPA is mandated by the Supreme Court to enforce their regulations. You can blame this administration all you want...but let's wait a year and a half and see if the situation improves. Change happens. I wish I was still working on the Interstates like in the 60's and 70's making high dollar contructions wages. I knew it would not last forever and got an education to market myself to the workplace.

    • The bookman


      That is twice you have stated the SCOTUS mandated that the EPA regulate CO2 emissions. At least that is the inference you provide. They have done no such thing. They have allowed the EPA to regulate CO2 under the terms of the CAA due to the ambiguity in the language, but that is very different than stating unequivocally that it falls under their purview.

      You also talk of the absence of good coal, and that is not accurate either. The coal today or tomorrow is just as good as last year's coal or the decade before. The problem is that the market that was in place for this coal is no longer in place. And to suggest that the reason for the absence of that market has nothing to do with Federal Government Regulations regarding its extraction or emission standards is disingenuous. The price of coal is set to decrease over the coming decades, and NG prices will necessarily increase. We can't generate enough electricity in a stable way without both sources of fossil fuel. You know that, don't you? Reducing our entire carbon footprint with a complete alternative, 0 emission source would not halt Global Warming in any appreciable way. You know that, don't you? So can you explain why we are putting everyone through this charade? I read your comments. You are an intelligent fellow. Enlighten me if you will!

  • flossrancher

    We need to elect officials who will make natural gas illegal.

    • Mason County Contrarian

      I wouldn't be surprised to find out that very notion has been entertained by the Coal Bosses and, at this very moment, their lobbyi$t$ are doing their research with the goal of at least finding ways to curtail the use of gas.

      Stranger things have happened, my friends.

  • Bartholomule

    West Virginia must be punished for the last primary election. It's the Chicago way!

  • Jim N Charleston

    1990s-2008: In the Top 5 Counties in the State of WV for average & median household income. A few years @ # 1. Yeah they were.
    November 2008: Boone was 1 of the few counties in WV to vote for President Obama.
    2009-2014: Dropping out of the Top 25 in economic data for the State faster than the Mountaineers in sports.

    Keep voting to send Democrats to DC. The Change they promised.

    All I got
    I'm Jim N So Charleston

    • I'm honest at least

      Jim I have to disagree with you on one thing. The problem isn't a dem. or rep. issue. The sooner we admit as a whole that the real problem is we elect based on money the sooner the problem will be fixed until then we get the same trash.

  • Jeff

    You permanently obliterate your county into a sacrifice zone and wonder why no one is moving in. Booh hoo

  • Jdawg

    If you did not see this coming u must be very blind or not very smart, this is sad and will only get worse!

    • susanf1218

      Sad situation all the way around. But it just emphasizes what a bad idea it is to depend so heavily on one source of revenue or industry to support the economy. Why has WV not realized this??

      • The bookman

        I think WV has been lucky to have the coal industry for as long as it has had it. The facts are WV isn't a very business friendly state. If the resources here weren't in limited supply nationally, these industries wouldn't be here either. They are here because the commodity is fixed in the ground, and not readily available elsewhere.

        If we want better and more diverse opportunities, then we need to actively compete with other states in our region for business to locate here. Our political leaders have had it easy for a very long time. There are successful templates to follow, but it will take significant changes by our government to make us competitive.

        • Aaron

          I don't know if you've been to southern WV Bookman but the biggest thing that will open that area to new businesses is the same thing that will open the Potomac Highlands and that is infrastructure.

          Before we can get others to locate here, we have to have viable roads to move product in and out as well as get employees to and from work as quickly as possible. You know as well as I do that that is the first route to diversity.

          • The bookman

            I provide service to all of southern WV and what you say is spot on. Specifically, the area fenced in by I-64 and I-77 receives limited service delivery due to the lack of point to point access. The area is among my highest point sales average, but the difficulty to access multiple points per day makes it among my lowest margin locations. It is a frustration in my business, and I agree it is the largest impediment faced, followed closely by prescription drug abuse.

        • Mason County Contrarian

          Each year prior to the Politician's Hog Trough referred to as The Legi$lature, the lobbyi$t$ make their post-Christmas wish list made known by claiming this or that state government policy hampers the "business climate". Of course, the Fat Cat$ listen. Changes are made with no tangible results. I can't wait to hear what the 2015 "economic development Booger Man" is going to be.

          Frankly, we're running out of policies with which to tinker.

          And we're running out of excuses and time.

          Small wonder a considerable number of our children study the "Three Rs: readin', 'ritin', and the road to Columbus."

          • Mason County Contrarian

            I wholeheartedly agree, Bookman. Excellent post.

          • The bookman

            Oh, if a few policy changes would provide the magic wand to change the climate here we could be off to the races. No, I don't think it's that simple. Better education, including non college bound, practical, functional and technical education would be primary. Societal improvements that lead to a predominantly drug free workforce, as opposed to a predominantly disabled or drugged up workforce would also be a plus. Better infrastructure that enables us to transport goods and efficiently provide services is key to our future success.

            Yes, the leadership in Charleston could use a fresh approach, but that alone still leaves us dreadfully short.