The Coal Industry’s Inside Battle to Keep MTR Alive

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I got a call today from one of RAN’s allies who lives in West Virginia about this article on the Charleston Gazette’s blog: Coal lobby, Congress upset with permit ‘backlog’ written by Ken Ward Jr. It seems that 8 members of the United States House of Representatives who represent coal states, wrote a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of the National Mining Association to express “concern with the growing backlog of coal mining permits currently pending…” Check out the National Mining Association’s press release about the letter.

That the coal industry is teaming up with coal-state congresspeople to put pressure on a regulatory body like the Army Corps of Engineers is no surprise. What is interesting about the letter is that their main concern is about jobs associated with mountaintop removal coal mining. According to research available on, production of MTR coal has been on the rise over the past 25 years, while mining jobs have been on a slight decline. I can’t say for certain that the coal state representatives don’t have a valid point when it comes to jobs associated with mining, but I do know that if they were so concerned with jobs, they should do a better job retaining the jobs that the industry provides in the first place – and not replace workers with ever-advanced earth movers that also destroy homes and communities in the region.

Critics of mountaintop removal mining also talk a lot about jobs. Coal River Wind is a project that proposes a wind farm atop Coal River mountain rather than blowing the top off it for the coal. According to Coal River Wind, a wind farm in the area would generate green jobs, as well as create a more stable, long term tax base for the county – all without causing people in the area to suffer from contaminated air and water, and the health impacts associated.

It seems to me that the coal industry is more interested in lining the pockets of their top executives than the long term health and welfare of local residents and economies. What do you think?