EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSATTACK ON COAL, PART 2
from Eyewitness News Online
Anxious Miners Share Their Worries About An Ever-Changing Coal Climate
Reported by: Rick Lord
Web Producer: Rick Lord
Also Contributing: Troy Morgan
Reported: May. 2, 2012 11:35 PM EDT
Updated: May. 3, 2012 4:15 PM EDT
, West Virginia
Mark DeLung has been in the mines his whole life.
"My dad was a coal miner, his dad was a coal miner, his brothers, everybody in the family was a coal miner."
But like a lot of coal miners, DeLung is worried about the policies of an Administration that some feel has thumbed its nose at the Mountain State.
"You see a lot of change in the industry right now and i think a lot of that is because of our government," says DeLung. "I think a lot of the regulations that they've come up with regarding clean coal has warranted a lot of the layoffs."
West Virginia has seen thousands of coal mining jobs disappear over the last several years.
"Well, no one likes to hear it," says Russell Benson, a coal miner at the Tygart Mine in Grafton. "It's a potential to put everybody out of work. that's our livelihood in West Virginia, it really is."
Steve Roberts, President of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, says losing the coal industry is not an option.
"We in West Virginia don't realize how devastating it would be if coal went away," says Roberts. "I believe that if coal went away, one dollar out of every four in our West Virginia economy would suddenly disappear."
West Virginia produces more coal than every state except Wyoming, and is responsible for 50 percent of all American coal exports. Ninety-sight percent of West Virginia electricity, and about half of all electricity across the country is generated by coal.
"We've got to make people understand how important that is, how important the coal mining jobs are to our standard of living in this country," says WV Coal Association President Bill Raney. "We've had this onslaught of regulations from the EPA, particularly as it relates to the power plants. The Kanawha River plant is going to close and it's because of the premature implementation of these-- not giving anyone the opportunity to comply with these new rules and requirements."
And many coal jobs that go away, go away forever... a sobering thought for miners who aren't trained to do anything else.
"I would hate the thought that I would have to, but yes I'm at the age that I'd have to," says DeLung. "I'd either have to go to school or pick up a new trade or do something different. I'd hate the thought of leaving West Virginia and all of my family, but what would you do? I'm a career coal miner. That's all I've done, so I'm very dependent on the coal industry."
"It would be so hard; it's just hard to fathom," says Benson. "Because once you learn to do something-- and it changes-- you evolve from changes-- but a drastic change, it would just be hard to do."
Most of that "change" centers on transitioning to alternative energy sources, like wind or solar. There is no debate that those are cleaner sources, but the question most have is: Does it make sense to go all-in on alternatives?
Rick Nida with Alpha Natural Resources has his doubts.
"One coal mine in America with, say, 400 workers, produces enough coal, and powers electricity generation as all forms of alternative energy," offers Nida.
DeLung concedes that there is a place in the energy mix for all sources, but he's not sure now is time to make any radical moves.
"Alternative fuels, in the future, may be a good thing," admits DeLung. "But right now they're not. And they're kinda backing out, in my view, of something... they're backing out too early. Until you have an alternative fuel that's as dependable as coal, in my opinion you better stay with coal for a while."
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