Coal Struggle Endures with W.Va. Mine Layoff Plans

Associated Press, Wichita Eagle, West Virginia Public Broadcasting — From Boone County banker Lee Milam's experience, each round of coal mine layoffs that hits southern West Virginia stifles his community's already-fragile economy. Read

Thursday's news was especially bitter. Coal giant Alpha Natural Resources revealed plans to shed 1,100 workers at 11 West Virginia surface mines and related operations by mid-October. In Boone, where about 2,400 people work in coal mining, two mines employing 462 people could be shuttered.

Potentially, that's 462 fewer folks, averaging a salary of nearly $85,000, spending money around town.

"If you own a restaurant, you're a coal miner and you just don't know it," said Milam, president of Whitesville State Bank. "If you're a banker, you're a coal miner. They're your neighbors and your friends."

For the many Appalachian critics of President Barack Obama's energy policies, Alpha's timing Thursday sparked a rallying cry. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency kicked off long-awaited public meetings on proposed limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, part of the administration's plan to stem global warming.

But bigger, systematic challenges facing Appalachian coal have been percolating for years, including less-expensive natur


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