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Despite Challenges, Coal Stakeholders Share Optimistic Industry Outlook During WV Mining Symposium

Presenters at the 48th Annual West Virginia Mining Symposium, held on Tuesday, Jan. 12, acknowledged the challenges facing the industry while also expressing optimism for what the future holds. 

Chris Hamilton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the West Virginia Coal Association, opened the event highlighting the great story the industry has to tell.  “Our industry is responsible for producing some of the most vital of societal needs: low-cost electricity, and steel, the building block of our nation. 


“Coal mining is one of the most honorable professions there are, and America needs the products we produce,” said Hamilton.  “We must stand tall and stand together to confront the challenges we face.”

Joe Craft, Chief Executive Officer of Alliance Resource Partners, addressed the forum and highlighted the need for America to retain its energy independence.  “Coal is a foundational contributor to our national energy and manufacturing portfolio, and we must continue to have a seat at the table,” said Craft. “It’s positive to see the global economy rebounding from the pandemic and the export coal market has been a welcome surprise. The industry needs stability and I’m hopeful conditions continue to improve in 2021.” 

The majority of West Virginia’s Congressional delegation spoke at the event and confirmed their continued support for the industry. They also outlined the challenges that may come from the Democrat-controlled Administration, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. 

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito noted that President-Elect Biden’s nominees for top Administration posts draw heavily from those that served under President Obama.  She also said Democrats now have a platform to move the Green New Deal legislative package. 

“I’ll do everything I can to make sure there is no repeat of the War on Coal and I’ll be fighting for the men and women of the coal industry,” said Capito. 

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who will become the Chairman of the powerful Senate Energy Committee, said, “I can assure you I will be a voice of reason in the Senate on coal and energy. I will continue to advocate for a total, all-in energy policy and for the continued use of coal.” 

Congresswoman Carol Miller touted her role as a founder of the Congressional Energy Export Caucus, which works to increase coal exports around the world, and her position on the House Climate Crisis Committee, where she tries to be a voice of reason on climate policy. 

Congressman David McKinley highlighted his role on the House Energy & Commerce Committee and his “Innovate First, Regulate Later” legislation (House Bill 9054).  The legislation would provide significant federal funding for research on carbon reduction technologies while extending the timeline for federal emission reduction targets. McKinley urged the industry to build coalitions, including those with other fossil fuel industries, to counter new environmental legislation that is sure to come. 

Rich Nolan, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Mining Association, noted that with the reset of the new Administration, the challenges facing coal will be great.  “We’ve had success over the past four years clawing back various proposals put in play during the Obama Administration, like striking down the Clean Power Plan and overhauling NEPA.  We will continue to advocate for coal-fired power generation, access to global markets, CCS technologies, and the like moving forward.” 

Steve Winberg, Deputy Secretary of Fossil Fuels for the U.S. Department of Energy, discussed the agency’s Coal FIRST Initiative, which is working to achieve net negative carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power generation through a $122 billion federal R&D program. He also highlighted programs working to identify alternative uses for coal, capturing rare earth materials through coal extraction, and the use of coal to create hydrogen. 

Michelle Bloodworth, President and Chief Executive Officer of America’s Power, highlighted her organization’s role in advocating for the coal-fired power generation industry and the critical importance of coal-fired electricity. Nick Cron, Vice President for XCoal, discussed how China’s post-COVID economic surge in the second half of 2020 is responsible for the positive growth in U.S. met coal pricing. And, Janet Gellici, Chief Executive of the National Coal Council, explained that her organization is an advisory body to the U.S. Department of Energy and offered the groups’ many studies and research reports for use by industry in its advocacy initiatives. Additionally, the 2020 mine safety and environmental award winners were announced during the program. 

All presenters paid tribute to former West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney, who retired effective Jan. 1.