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 "With the uncertainty now, in the last couple of years the EPA has withdrawn permits after they were started and were issued.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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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