CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although the state’s coal industry has shrunk drastically in recent years, the West Virginia Coal Association touted a new study which maintained the industry , along with coal fired power plants, are still a major economic driver in West Virginia’s economy.
“We commissioned the study, but it was done by the state’s leading economist up there at the Bureau for Business and Economics John Deskins. It came out even more overwhelming and convincing than even what we thought on the total economic impact,” said Chris Hamilton, President of the West Virginia Coal Association.
Data from the study found mining and coal-fired power generation was still a $14 billion impact on West Virginia’s economy. According to the Coal Association the state’s mining industry alone spends more than $2.1 billion on wages and coal operators generated approximately $9.1 billion in economic activity in 2019.
“Despite production declines in recent years, coal remains a very important part of West Virginia’s economy, as illustrated in our research,” Deskins said. “Coal continues to support a sizeable share of the state’s economic output and thousands of high-paying jobs.”
The state still has eight coal fired power plants which generate the largest share of electricity used by West Virginia residents as well as many beyond the state’s borders. According to Hamilton the state still had about 100 coal mines in operation. The upstream and downstream industries from both coal and power operations were sizeable according to the WVU research. This came even as the coal industry was half the size of what it was a decade ago according to Hamilton. He added, the industry faces even more uncertainty in the years to come.
“A lot of forces are trying to transition everybody away from fossil energy, but we really should be a last holdout because of the economic benefits and jobs fossil energy, particularly coal, does for the Mountain State,” he explained.