Coal's Future Focus

Source: Wheeling Intelligencer\

WHEELING - If you ask Chris Hamilton, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unfairly targeting West Virginia's coal industry by holding up several state mining permits. As Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, believes coal mining is under attack, Ohio County Commissioner Randy Wharton also wants to make sure EPA officials are held accountable for their actions.

Hamilton and Wharton joined Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie, Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce President Terry Sterling, Marshall County Chamber of Commerce President Dave Knuth and others for a news conference expressing support for the coal industry in Wheeling this morning.

Hamilton said the Obama Administration's EPA, led by administrator Lisa Jackson, seems to have a bias against Mountain State coal. This year, Hamilton said, West Virginia will produce the second highest amount of coal for any state, with about 160 million tons. This amount pales in comparison to the 400 million tons set for production in Wyoming.

Proposed Administrative Rules Available

The Board of Coal Mine Health & Safety released four (4) sets of administrative rules earlier this week for public comment.  The rules address fire protection on underground conveyor belts, updated requirements for mine rescue teams and team member training, requirements for a recording “barometer” to be located at all underground coal mines, and more frequent calibration requirements for machine mounted methane gas monitors.
The proposed rules affecting “conveyor belts” and “mine rescue teams” have been developing before the Board for the past two years.  Both rulemaking actions are intended to comport the state requirements to corresponding, newly finalized federal standards on these two topics.  The proposed standards for mine rescue teams were recommended to the Board for promulgation in April, 2008 by the Mine Safety Technology Task Force.

Exports Up

According to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) report for week ending April 17th, U.S. metallurgical exports for February 2010 are nearly 80% ahead of the same month last year, 4.094 million tons compared to 2.276 million tons in February 2009.  The metallurgical export totals for the first two months show more than a 70% increase.  For the same period, steam coal exports were down more than 33% and 2010 imports were more than 30% behind 2009.  The 2010 year-to-date production for West Virginia was approximately 7.5% behind last year, 42.1 million tons vs. 45.6 million.

This Week

The Association entertained myriad of media inquiries and interview requests from local, state and national sources.  The majority have related to the Upper Big Branch mine accident and the pending investigations, although some have pertained to EPA’s actions against the Appalachian states and their respective coal industries.
The Health & Safety Committee met to prepare for the Board of Coal Mine Health & Safety meetings that were held on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Chris is one of the three industry representatives on that Board. The Board of Miner Training, Education and Certification and the Mine Technology Task Force also met on Thursday.
The Environmental & Technical Committee participated in discussions with the Office of Surface Mining regarding several rule-making proposals.
Joined the Friends of Coal Ladies’ Auxiliary for their weekly “coal-in-the-classroom” curriculum classes at the St. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Oak Hill.  The Ladies were approved to conduct their six weeks of classes on the coal industry at this high quality school as well as the St. Francis Catholic School in Beckley next month.

2010 Joint Spring Meeting

The 2010 Joint Spring Meeting of the WVCA, WV Coal Mining Institute and the Central Appalachian Section of SME will be held at The Resort at Glade Springs, Daniels, WV during May 6-8.          

Registration will begin on Thursday afternoon between 2 – 6:30 p.m. with a Welcoming Reception beginning at 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.          

A Technical Session featuring Chuck Dunbar, Director of Planning and Acquisitions of ICG, Ron Stovash, Bill Raney (WVCA), Scott Boylen (Wolf Run Mining Co.), Michael Karmis (VPI) and Danrick Alexander (NIOSH), will begin at 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  Golf from noon to 6 p.m., Cocktail Reception beginning at 6:30 and the Installation of the Thirteenth Class into the WV Coal Hall of Fame Banquet.          

Saturday’s Technical Session will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will feature Michael Smith of Consol Energy, Eddie Turner of Atlantic Leaseco, Jim Magro of Patriot Coal Corp, Gene Kitts of ICG, Bob McLusky with Jackson Kelly, Jason Bostic of WVCA and Tom Cook with Massey Energy Services.           

For registration information please contact the WV Coal Mining Institute at (304) 293-4124.