CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An international labor leader says coal is facing its toughest challenge with the current market and the Clean Power Plan finalized Monday by President Barack Obama.

“This is the worst period of time in our history with respect to coal,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said Tuesday on MetroNews ‘Talkline’.

The current struggles, which have included dozens of coal company bankruptcies and uncertainty, is only rivaled by the The Great Depression, Roberts said, which impacted the entire economy.

The UMWA continued to review the possible impacts from the Clean Power Plan Tuesday. What the union sees, according to Roberts, is a production decrease of millions of tons of coal a year, which will mean fewer jobs.

“It’s probably going to be around 100 million tons of coal being used in Appalachia, mined, burned and that’s a dramatic, dramatic reduction…and we all know what that means,” Roberts said.

The plan requires states to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants by 30 percent in 15 years. The federal government is promoting retraining for coal communities. That response is unacceptable, West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said on ‘Talkline’.

“We’ve lost jobs and now (the federal government) is going to send all of this money in to retrain coal miners and diversify the economy? You talk about the height of hypocrisy. I tell you brother, that’s it,” Raney said.

Thousands of coal mining jobs were eliminated in the 1950s with mechanization improvements but Roberts said those miners went to places like Detroit and Cleveland for work. He said those options are no longer available for the laid off miners of today.

Roberts and Raney both believe coal has a future in America’s energy portfolio. They both agree the price and demand for metallurgical call will make a comeback and some of the larger bankrupted companies will become leaner but ready to do business. The state must be ready too, Raney said.

“30, 32, 33 percent of the electricity in this country is going to be made with the use of coal for a long, long time,” Raney predicted. “We want to be certain that we here in West Virginia are doing everything we can to get our costs in line so that we can continue to be part of that.”

Coal miners are being ignored by President Obama, the EPA and some in the Democratic Party, according to Roberts.

“Coal miners have allowed this country to win two world wars. Coal miners have given up their lives to the tune of 105,000 coal miners have been killed, 100,000 coal miners have died from Black Lung. We have gone off to war at higher numbers than anybody else. We are the most patriotic people on earth and this is what we get? This is what we get?”

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