West Virginia: Coal At The Crossroads
A U.S. District Court judge ruled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had failed to assess the effect on coal mining jobs caused by the agency's tightened power plant emissions restrictions issued in 2011 under the Clean Air Act. The judge gave the EPA two weeks to produce data reviewing the matter. There has been no word on whether the agency will appeal the decision.
The ruling was a glimmer of good news in coal mining states like Wyoming, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, all hard hit by mining job losses. But in no state is the population more dependent upon coal mining jobs than in West Virginia.
Coal production in the state has been halved in less than a decade. Coal industry employment has fallen 35% since 2011. The drop is due to a convergence of factors: the EPA rules, competition from cheap natural gas, and the weakening of international demand caused primarily by China's voluntary economic slowdown.