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Officials discuss coal job losses in area

By Matt Murphy, Local government writer

Coal and the future of the commodity as it relates Kanawha County was a discussion point at Thursday’s Kanawha County Commission meeting, just two days after an Alum Creek coal company announced it planned to lay off 280 employees by mid-October.

“We’re all concerned about these WARN notices we’ve received,” Hardy said, referring to Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications sent out within the last month by Coal River Mining and Alpha Natural Resources.

“Obviously, it’s bad news.”

West Virginia Coal Association Senior Vice President Chris Hamilton spoke to commissioners about coal job losses throughout central Appalachia in recent years.

“The trends here in Kanawha County have been very similar,” he said.

Hamilton blamed changes in the market as well as President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the overall negative effects on the coal market. He did say that West Virginia coal being used in steel production has helped offset some losses.

Commission President Kent Carper said he felt there were other factors at play. For one, he said the state government could be more proactive about using West Virginia coal in West Virginia power plants, instead of importing coal for electric generation from other states.

“I like Pennsylvania, but why should we be burning Pennsylvania coal, Ohio coal and Kentucky coal and laying off miners here?” he said, later adding, “There’s some things I think we can do ourselves here in West Virginia.”

Hamilton said about half of coal used for electricity production in West Virginia comes from out of state.

“Nothing’s being done about that,” Carper said. “Not a single complaint.”

Carper said although he recognizes that policies from the federal government have hurt the coal industry, he doesn’t see constantly blaming the presidential administration without considering other factors as being productive.

“Just blaming the EPA, suing the EPA every day, I like it, but it’s not helping us,” he said.

Carper and Hamilton also disagreed over which 2012 presidential candidate referred to a coal-fired power plant as something that “kills people.”

Hamilton was adamant that Obama used the phrase, and contradicted Carper attributing that statement to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president.

Romney used the phrase in 2003 concerning a power plant in his home state of Massachusetts.

Romney’s full statement was, “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people, and that plant — that plant kills people,” according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Politifact.

Before the argument, Carper brought the statement up to show that he believed both presidential candidates in 2012 had not always been supportive of coal.

“He ain’t the only one doing this,” Carper said, referring to Obama and policies detrimental to coal.

Either way, Carper, Hardy and Commissioner Hoppy Shores all expressed concern over the coal industry and the economic effects it has in Kanawha County.

“We support coal mining jobs, why in the world wouldn’t we?” Carper said.

In other business, the commissioners:

Approved a resolution supporting the proposed $3 million levy for libraries, which would benefit the Kanawha County Public Library system and municipal libraries in South Charleston and Nitro.

The levy will be on the ballot for the November general election.

“This is a tremendous value to the taxpayers of Kanawha County,” Hardy said of the county’s libraries. “It’s a reasonable levy and I’m proud to support it.”

Last week, a grassroots campaign was started to support the library levy.

Set trick-or-treat hours for the county for 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 30, from to coordinate with municipalities.

Approved $50,000 in funding assistance to the city of South Charleston for turf at “The Rock” baseball facility at Little Creek Park.

The whole project will cost $1.3 million, Mayor Frank Mullens said.

Funding will come from the county’s table games fund.

Approved dates and locations for the county’s fall cleanup.

The first cleanup will be at Capitol Beverage in Sissonville on Sept. 13, followed by the Go-Mart in Cabin Creek on Sept. 27 and the foamer Union Carbide property across from Dow Chemical in South Charleston on Oct. 11.

Decided to apply for grant money for renovations to the ceiling of the Kanawha County Courthouse.

Received an update on the county’s planning efforts concerning chemical storage tanks.

Deputy Emergency Manager CW Sigman said the county is continuing to work with the state Department of Environmental Protection on locations for storage tanks.


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