Ashton Marra Published

Congressional, Industry Leaders Discuss Challenges in Coal Industry


  Members of Congress, state government and industry representatives gathered in Bluefield Tuesday for the Bluefield Coal Symposium. The annual event gathers leaders to discuss the major issues facing the industry.

On the panel were Congressmen Nick Rahall and Morgan Griffith of Virginia, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Rainey and Alpha Natural Resources Senior Vice President of Environmental Affairs Gene Kitts. Sen. Joe Manchin served as the moderator.

The discussion covered a variety of topics ranging from carbon sequestration to the import export bank. Much of the discussion focused on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s newly proposed rule to cut carbon dioxide aimed at limiting coal fired power plants.

Panelists answered written questions from the audience, including one about how the federal government is working to create jobs in southern West Virginia while taking a stance against the coal industry.

Rahall said economic diversification is something the state should see the federal government as a partner in doing, not as the entity that will take the lead.

“Coal is number one, make no mistake about it, has been, is, always will be, we will never turn our backs on the coal industry,” he said, “but I think [we should] diversify our economy and have other industries in place so that we can have the retraining or other places for the coal miners however temporary it may be to go and work.”

Morrisey focused many of his answers on how his office is working to legally fight the EPA’s proposal by joining in an amicus brief with nine other states.

All of the panelists seemed to agree that new benefits for miners suffering from Black Lung as defined in the Affordable Care Act were a positive thing, although Griffith said the law should be repealed and those provisions introduced as a separate measure.

Manchin’s stance was that the coal industry has never before had an enemy in the federal government. Instead, he said, federal leaders have reached out to help the industry during previous declines.

“We never had the federal government doubling down when times got tough, making it almost impossible for us to survive. We’ve never been hit like this before,” he said in closing the discussion.

“We’ve always had government who would reach out and be your partner, but we can’t survive if the federal government doubles down.”