Regional State of the State: Association Leaders Look to the Future

Rachel Gleason – While we have seen some relief federally in recent years, the coal mining industry in Pennsylvania continues to be heavily regulated, well beyond what is necessary to safely and responsibly mine and reclaim the land once mining is complete.

While other coal mining primacy states generally benefit from a more common-sense regulatory approach, Pennsylvania tends to resist implementing any change from what has been decades of the status quo, even though industry and practices have evolved. As a result, PCA and our member companies are constantly working with, and sometimes against, our state regulators and policymakers to address unnecessary and costly laws and regulations to bring our Commonwealth in concordance with federal requirements. Conformity is needed for our operations to compete with other coal states that don’t have the same state-imposed burdens.

Bill Raney – In 2008, West Virginia’s production was 166 million tons — 97 million underground and 68 million surface. By 2016, production had fallen to 84 million tons – 69 million underground and only 15 million tons surface. The reasons were the loss of CAPP thermal markets due to coal unit closures courtesy of MATS and other environmental regulations, lower overall power and steel demand domestically due to a poor U.S. economy and lackluster export demand for both thermal and met coal. In 2017, production rebounded across the board to a total of 94 million tons. Coal employment (direct) fell from 20,514 in 2008 to 12,213 in 2016. In 2017, employment rebounded to 14,986.

Travis Deti – Everyone knows the American coal industry has seen some tough times these past few years. We (Wyoming) lost about 1,500 jobs and about 100 million tons annually. The abusive over-regulation of the Obama administration was an unprecedented attempt to cripple and end an essential American industry.

The Wyoming mining industry employed over 5,680 people directly in 2017, with each job supporting an estimated two to three jobs in the service and supply industry. During the toughest times, coal still averaged more than $1 billion in annual revenue to state and local governments.

In Wyoming, we don’t labor under a Pollyannaish notion that the positive change in policy direction from the Trump administration is a “silver bullet” to restore the industry to its former heights. However, it has certainly been a welcome and positive change.

Headley: Are you optimistic that you will be able to recover more of the production lost in the Obama years, or is that production “off the table”?

Gonet – With President Trump’s regulatory reset for the coal industry, the future of Illinois coal production can be considered moderately positive. There are several factors for this optimism.