News / USA

Natural Gas, Environmental Regulations Hurt US Coal Regions

Natural Gas, Environmental Regulations Hurt US Coal Regionsi
X
August 12, 2013 8:58 PM
Many power plants in the United States are using natural gas instead of coal to generate electricity, reducing the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists say fuel climate change. While this may be good for the environment, VOA’s Brian Padden reports that, for the people in the coal dependent Appalachian mountains of the eastern United States, the decline in coal production threatens their livelihood.
Brian Padden
Even before US President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, the U.S. coal industry had denounced the Obama Administration for waging what it called "a war on coal."  People who live in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States and depend on coal mining for their livelihood, say that increased environmental regulations threatens their way of life.

The Prichard coal mine in Logan County, West Virginia, is still operating. It employs 55 people with jobs that pay annual wages over $60,000 and produces more than 500,000 tons of coal a year. However, its future is in doubt.  Competition from lower-cost natural gas is driving down demand for coal.  But Rocky Hackworth, general manager for mine operations, says the real threat comes from increased regulation and the costs required for approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for mining operations.

“Now the last permit we got, took us over three years to get it. It cost us $1.2 million to get the permit approved before we ever started," said Hackworth. "With the uncertainty now, in the last couple of years the EPA has withdrawn permits after they were started and were issued. So do you risk it?"

Much of the money for permits, he says, goes to restoring mountaintops that were removed to access the coal underneath and ensuring that operations don't pollute the local water.  

A number of mines in the area have closed, and businesses are struggling.  Jim Winkler owns the American Hydraulic and Rebuild Company. It makes parts for mining equipment and used to have twice the number of staff working 10 hours a day.  

“From last year to this year, we’re down 40 percent," he said. "My men are on eight hours a day or four days a week. I am getting ready to lay off four men. Two of the men have been with me for 20 years. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never laid anybody off."

Ashley Justice, co-owner of the Busted Knuckle automotive repair shop, says economic uncertainty is taking an emotional toll.

“It’s disheartening to see that we’re losing people that we’ve known our whole lives, are moving to different parts of the country for work, to retire," said Justice.

West Virginia State Senator Art Kirkendoll says the U.S. government is waging economic war on coal mining to encourage the use of cleaner fuels and reduce global warming.

“We feel like there is a little bit of a war on it, to reduce it to the point that, you know, with certain regulations where it’s hard for us to mine it," he said. "And, you know, if you have a product and you can’t sell it or you can’t produce it and mine it, then eventually you are going to go out of business anyway."

The people living in rural Appalachian areas, he says, are casualties of the war on coal.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid