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 "With the uncertainty now, in the last couple of years the EPA has withdrawn permits after they were started and were issued.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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More