Gazette Editorial: Well Past Time to Prepare WV for Life After Coal
Charleston Gazette - Regardless of who is elected president, the coal industry of southern West Virginia will continue vanishing, former Sen. Jay Rockefeller warned a National Energy Conference last week in Morgantown. Federal pollution laws will be upheld by courts, he said, no matter how much they're attacked by coal-state politicians. Read
His sobering words were a dose of reality. Will they prompt any West Virginia leaders to think about the future instead of pining for a fictitious, rosy past?
As mining retreats in southern counties, painful hardship does indeed befall communities that have taken root there. New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau say nine southern coal counties are suffering major population loss.
Worst is McDowell County, which had almost 100,000 people in 1950, when coal boomed. The new 2015 estimate is 19,835, barely one-fifth of the county's heyday, when the demand for mine labor inflated the county's population beyond what its land or economy could otherwise support.