CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Lawmakers learned last week there are now 96 active coal mining sites in West Virginia. The number has continued to drop over the last two years. There were 184 active mines at the end of 2012 and 152 at the end of 2013.

“There’s a whole lot of reasons for that, but predominantly it’s the uncertainty created by this administration,” said West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney. “We dealt for several years with the fact you couldn’t get federal permits, now they’ve taken on the power plants and put out these rules on greenhouse gas which have no technology to control.”

Raney said since 2012, 4,000 miners have lost their jobs in West Virginia’s coal industry and the number has dropped 1,200 since 2013.

“Those are direct jobs, the primary good-paying jobs,” said Raney. “That’s devastating when you think we’re down to about 17 to 18,000 people digging coal today.”

Raney said the industry is also seeing a shift in production from mines in southern West Virginia to northern West Virginia. He attributes that to the scrubber technology added to northern power plants during the 1990s which enabled them to burn high-sulfur coal found in northern West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

“We spent 25 years putting control technology on those plants,” Raney said. “Now they can use and need to use high-sulfur coal and that’s where they’re going.”

Raney said the one bright spot for mines in southern West Virginia is the quality of the metallurgical coal in the region is the best in the world and is being sold worldwide for steel-making.

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  • dc

    Soon the regulations will start. Gas will be as overregulated as coal. As that happens pricing goes up. The left will come to think it is THEIR job to write crazy laws so fines can be imposed for some entitlement they want to fund.

    • Dan

      Couldn't agree with you more. I've thought that for some time. Natural gas will go up as they have to comply with new regulations and coal will again look more attractive.

  • rick

    How do you think things will change with the EPA under the next administration? This is just an excuse to cover up the fact that coal sales are going down due to pollution. Even China and India are cutting back because they can't breath in the cities.

  • Fred

    One of the most important benefits for our state coming from the switch to NG is the removal of the UMWA from the energy equation. While we have to thank them for technology improvements developed due to the high cost of using their services, we won't miss their violence and workmens comp fraud. I'm older than nearly everyone on here and in my family we remember the UMWA as the guys who went on strike during WWII, threatening the security of those at home while most males were overseas. I fully welcome the natural gas industry and its non-union employees. They are the future of our state.

  • JTC

    As Bob Dylan sang " the times they are a changin" ! Gas is here to stay, unfortunately coal has seen it's better days.

  • reality

    WV selling more coal to utilities

    Posted: Oct 24, 2014 10:28 AM EDT
    Updated: Oct 25, 2014 9:00 AM EDT

    For The State Journal

    Despite regulatory efforts that were supposed to reduce the amount of coal burned by power plants, West Virginia mines sold about 4.3 million more tons in the utility market through July than they did in the same period last year.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    I would like to see a map of where the mines are located throughout the state today and compare that to a map of 1990 . I actually surprised to see we still have 18,000 miners . I wonder how many are union ? That metallurgical coal isn't going anywhere and when the price spikes again miners will be recalled . I'm not anti coal - just anti Mountaintop Mining . It's a horrible method to get to a very small seam of coal . I love those mountains .

    • Bill MC

      I bet you have no problem see all those windmills on top of the mountain tops. Don't they look so pretty! Just think now little electricity they produce and not much space they take up to produce it.

      • Underhill

        Hm, are we running out of mountaintops for wind turbines? Seems to be plenty of space on the few mountains where they are best used. And they keep on running - what are you left with when the burning rocks are gone?

  • The bookman

    Natural gas is the near future fuel. Coal and natural gas are the present fuels. Either we burn them here and take advantage of the cost savings and security, or we can ship it overseas and put all of our eggs into natural gas, choosing a higher cost and less security

    But make no mistake, when coal no longer contributes to our energy consumption, natural gas will be in the cross hairs.

    In two years, we have lost nearly 50% of our operational mines. Our sacrifice will not change CO2 emissions in any measurable way, nor will it lead to any reduction in Global Temperatures. Krugman states that the President will leave a lasting legacy on this issue, and for once, I agree with his assessment. It's just not a legacy I would want associated with my name.

  • Aaron

    If I were setting on coal reserves with the price approaching $50 per ton, I'd idle mines as well. Sooner or later, obstacles to profitable coal will subside and there will be a market for what's in the mountains.

  • king natural gas

    Don't see it Metronews, but there was a story out today about soaring NG production in Northern WV. Look at the EIA electric reports for PA, look at the giant NG plants being built in VA, PA, NJ. The cheapest NG in the country is adjacent to the most expensive coal. The writing is all over the wall, it's just a matter if you're illiterate or can read it.

  • markets suck

    Coal, natural gas, alternatives, oil are now a mix. People will go with the most cost effective. The Homestead Resort just converted from coal to natural gas. What we don't hear about coal is the impact of Western coal, cheaper to mine and closer to the Chinese markets. Three new export shipping heads are being built right now in Washington and Oregon. Yes, there are a lot of reasons Appalachian coal is less competitive. Lots.

  • Couz

    And yet the UMWA continues to endorse Democrats. They are so bent on sticking with the anti-Republican views of the union that they are essentially helping to put themselves out of work by supporting politicians whose policies hurt the coal industry.

  • the flying dutchman

    a state with 60 years of democratic controlled legislative bodies done in by a a president who is a democrat....the very definition of irony...

    sadly, the people who live in coal areas will pay a horrible price..while the government continues to fiddle.

  • george

    yea, stick with Nick........................

  • leroy

    natural gas is here
    coal is gone
    get used to it

    • Ray

      Natural gas is abundant.
      Southern West Virginia coal is expensive.
      Northern West Virginia coal is high sulfur but less expensive and can be burned in coal fired plants with scrubbers.
      Midwestern coal is somewhat lower btu and high sulfur and is less expensive than Southern West Virginia coal and has replaced Southern West Virginia because of scrubbers.
      Republicans really have trouble with real facts associated with the coal markets.
      Gentleman, natural gas and scrubbers are game changers as far as the thermal coal market is concerned. Step up and tell the truth and stop blaming President Obama. I know we are near the end of an election cycle, but certainly you would not manipulate the facts just to sway an election.
      Please read the above article again and pay attention to the fifth and sixth paragraph. Mr. Raney finally gets around to the real facts concerning high sulfur coal and the use of scrubbers.
      This was exactly what Senator Robert C Byrd and Senator John Rockefeller warned the state was about to happen, but sadly they were ridiculed by the same people who are telling lies to the public now.

    • Bob

      Tipical liberal. NO Jobs, NO income for hundreds of familys, NO economy! The left is killing this state and nation. Wait untill you start paying higher prices for natural gas. Green Energy. LOL, LOL, LOLO, LOL!!!!!!!!!

      • Mach

        Bob, I'm curious. What is your definition of a liberal?

      • facts

        Liberal? What is a simple statement of fact have to do with politics? Natural gas is converting industry and residential users based on COST. Our coal is expensive compared to Western coal. Export markets are in Asia, close to western coal, not Europe, our market. Screw politics. Facts over emotion. Reality over nostalgia.

  • FungoJoe

    Obama's energy policy at work. The obama economy, kill good paying jobs with good benefits for service industry jobs with no benefits. This helps out his labor union buddies at SEIU and gives his failed ObamaCare law more applicants.

    • so sick of hearing

      Sick of hearing the Obama Administration and poor economy crap... go back 8 years as a whole and point to where it is worse. . You can't. . It is grossly different. LOOK AT WALL STREET!

      Unfortunately, COAL has been declining for 30 years. When a corporation wants to me billions instead of high millions, they see it as a loss, idle mines and then bitch about politics. .. Bullcrap. .. the article even mentions of the scrubber technology and the power plants that made the change are still going... strong at that. It boils down to supply, demand and neglected power plants being milked for every penny instead of being technology up to date to deal with change. It's pretty simple.

      • GF

        These power plants are switching to NG because it's the cheaper alternative. What's wrong with that? It isn't the electric company's job to keep the coal industry afloat. They have every right to pick the lowest cost fuel source. For years that source was the coal in nearby southern WV. Has nothing to do with neglecting power plants, it's a simple business decision. You do want low electricity rates don't you?