CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has been to the White House twice in the last three weeks for discussions on his plan to boost the use of coal produced in the eastern coalfields.

Justice is proposing what he calls a homeland security incentive that would protect the eastern power grid.

Steve Rotsch/Governor Jim Justice's Office

Gov. Jim Justice says would help secure the eastern power grid.

“The federal government would pay our power plants for every ton of coal that they buy that’s a Central (Appalachian) ton or Northern (Appalachian) ton of coal in order to preserve our eastern coalfields,” Justice said.

According to Justice, West Virginia and surrounding states with their three-foot high coal seams are having problems competing with higher seam coal mined in Illinois and western states that’s produced at a lower price. He said the more eastern utilities depend on western coal and natural gas the more the eastern power grid is vulnerable in case of a national security issue in the western part of the country.

“If you’re all on gas or you’re all on gas and western coal and somebody puts a bomb at a gas junction point or somebody puts a bomb on a bridge coming from the west you could very well lose the entire eastern power grid,” Justice said.

He said a $15 a ton subsidy to power utilities would create lots of coal jobs in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Justice said the eastern coalfields need help for a variety of reasons and he fears they may not be able to survive another downturn.

Justice said President Donald Trump and members of his staff listened to his plan during those two White House meetings. He admits though there’s a long way to go.

“A lot has to fall in line for this to happen but we’re working on it,” he said.

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