News / USA

Natural Gas, Environmental Regulations Hurt US Coal Regions

Natural Gas, Environmental Regulations Hurt US Coal Regionsi
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 "With the uncertainty now, in the last couple of years the EPA has withdrawn permits after they were started and were issued.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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs