If you drive West Virginia’s interstates, you’ve seen the billboards put up by the coal industry complaining about how “Obama’s EPA” is turning much of Appalachia into a “no-jobs zone.” At Monday’s farce of a congressional hearing in Charleston, you heard several Republican representatives and coal-industry supporters complain of a “de facto war on coal.”
There’s one inconvenient fact, though, for those pushing the line that President Obama and federal regulators have it in for the coal industry: In the last few years, the coal industry has been hiring more miners, not fewer.
In fact, a story in Tuesday’s Bluefield Daily Telegraph?discussed how increasing mining employment was helping drive down McDowell County’s depressingly high unemployment rates.
This boom isn’t limited to McDowell County, either. According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of coal mining jobs across the state increased by 8.6 percent between June 2010 and June 2011.
This is a war on coal?
It is true that Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other local and regional groups have been fighting mountaintop removal, and that fight has had an impact, delaying some mountaintop removal mining.
But, as mining production from mountaintop removal has declined, it has been replaced by increased production at underground mines, which are far more labor intensive. That, we believe, explains much of the increase in mining jobs. Despite the coal industry’s constant rhetoric about jobs, it has long been evident that mountaintop removal mining destroys jobs as well as the environment.
There is no war on coal by federal regulators. There is simply a long overdue attempt to bring coal mining in Appalachia into compliance with federal and state law and protect the people, the environment ?and the economy from mountaintop removal mining’s most harmful effects.