Readers may recall that I took up the challenge last week from Clem Guttata at West Virginia Blue, who asked who would be the first reporter in West Virginia to get one of our elected officials to answer this question:
â€œIf West Virginia wants to maximize coal mining employment, doesnâ€™t more underground mining do that instead of more mountain top mining?â€
I posed this question to U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller,Â Reps. Nick J. Rahall, Alan Mollohan and Shelley Moore Capito, and Gov. Joe Manchin. I gave them a deadline of noon today to respond…I got responses back from Rockefeller, Rahal, Capito and Manchin. Nothing from Byrd or Mollohan. Here’s what they said. What do you think?
Sen. Jay Rockefeller:
“We need to keep all options on the table to maximize jobs and protect our local economies in these difficult times. Underground mining should be pursued where ever practicable.Â However in some areas surface mining is the only economically viable way to access the coal resources.
“I think back to when I served as Governor, and I pushed for haulback technologies for West Virginia coal mining, which was a system that would create more jobs with more environmental protections.Â Initially, this was met with resistance, but it worked well to prevent sediment from running off the mountain, and ultimately employed more people in the coal mines.
“When it comes down to coal mining techniques, our solutions must keep jobs and local economies at the forefront, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also make progress for the environment and for West Virginias’ quality of life. We can and we will.”
“In general, underground coal mining generates more employment although not all coal seams lend themselves to this form of extraction.Â As it currently stands, there are more people employed by underground mining operations in West Virginia than at surface mines.Â According to the Energy Information Administration, 13,441 people were employed by underground coal mining operations and 6,608 worked for surface coal mining operations in West Virginia in 2007.”
“Coal is one of our nation’s most abundant energy resources and it provides nearly all of West Virginia’s electricity power.Â Like many in our state, I believe coal and the thousands of jobs it produces can and should play a key role in the economy of our state and in the push for broad-based energy independence.
“We know that coal reserves that are suitable for surface mining aren’t always suitable for underground mining.Â But we also know that much of the same permitting process applies to both types of mining, and the current controversy over one set of permits is likely to have an impact on coal mining in general.
“The larger question is over the direction this Congress and the Administration appear to be taking when it comes to coal.Â We’ve seen the first salvo from the EPA, and we know that the burden from the cap-and-trade debate looming on the horizon would fall squarely on the back of states like ours.
“We all have an interest in ensuring that mining practices leave a smaller long-term footprint in our communities, but to abandon mining altogether risks thousands of West Virginia jobs.”
â€œThe governor understands just how vital coal mining is to our stateâ€™s economy and what it means for the opportunity to provide quality jobs to our citizens.Â Regardless of the method used to extract coal – from underground to surface mining – the governor wants to make sure that safety is at the forefront of the mining process. In the case of which form of mining is more effective at maximizing employment, the governor feels that the coal reserve base will determine which form is the best practice.Â
It is important to note that he believes that there is a balance to be had involving mining and that there must be a purposeful and beneficial post-mine land use plan in place to benefit our citizens.Â
One of the worldâ€™s most-pressing issues is the growing demand for energy. The governor believes that West Virginia will continue provide the coal that powers this nation, by doing it in a cleaner and more responsible manner.â€Â