Coal Tattoo

Mining lobby admits it: Coal jobs are on the rise

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We’re about to be treated to another episode in the continuing story of the attacks by the coal industry and its friends in Congress on any effort by the Obama administration to reduce mountaintop removal’s impacts on coalfield communities, protect the world from greenhouse gas pollution and ensure mining industry workers make it home to their families after each workday.

That’s right the House Natural Resources Committee is set to hold a hearing later this morning on what Ohio Republican Bill Johnson’s bill called the “Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act”. Basically, this is a bill to stop the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from rewriting the federal stream buffer zone rule, but it’s actually much broader, prohibiting OSMRE from taking any actions that would do any of the following:

— Adversely impact employment in coal mines in the United States;

— Cause a reduction in revenue received by the Federal Government or any State, tribal or local government, by reducing through regulation the amount of coal in the United States that is available for mining;

— Reduce the amount of coal available for domestic consumption or export;

— Designate any area as unsuitable for surface coal mining and reclamation operations; or

— Expose the United States to liability for taking the value of privately owned coal through regulation.

Now, to hear Rep. Johnson talk, there’s a major crisis in the nation’s coalfields, with workers and their families already suffering because of actions by the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency:

Every day thousands of hardworking coal miners go to work to put food on their families’ tables and keep millions of American families supplied with reliable, low cost electricity. The Obama Administration has actively sought ways to put an end to the coal industry through onerous regulations and activist rulemaking. This bill will ensure that this Administration cannot continue its efforts to increase the cost of energy for millions of Americans and put thousands of coal miners and coal industry related workers out of work.

The federal government should not be in the business of blocking production of one of America’s most abundant natural resources and the source of livelihoods in communities across the country.

And not so long again, in celebrating a partial court victory over EPA, the National Mining Association’s president, Hal Quinn, said this:

With this decision, coal communities can get back to the business of producing affordable energy for Americans and put more Americans back to work.

So imagine my surprise to see the chart I’ve posted above right there at the top of the National Mining Association’s website, along with this fascinating bit of text:

Mining added 11,000 men and women to our payrolls over the last year, along with 17,000 new support jobs. In fact, U.S. mining added thousands more jobs over the last decade-America’s first job-loss decade in 75 years.

Jobs at U.S. metals mines climbed by 10 percent and coal mining employment rose by 8.5 percent since 2001 . . . mining support jobs grew by an astounding 32 percent.

Here are their specific numbers:

Of course Matt Wasson at Appalachian Voices has been trying to make the point that government data indicates that coal-mining jobs in West Virginia specifically are on the rise since EPA began its crackdown on mountaintop removal — and lawmakers should know this, since Joe Lovett of the group Appalachian Mountain Advocates made this very point during a previous hearing:

Since 2007, as production in Central Appalachia has shifted away from mountaintop removal and back toward underground mining, the increase in employment at underground mines has more than offset declines at other types of mines. Although mountaintop removal may benefit the bottom lines of big coal operators, it does not increase the number of coal mining jobs.

Since mountaintop removal permits have been slowed by litigation and EPA regulation, mining jobs have actually increased in the region.