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Study Shows Coal Industry Generates Billions In Economic Activity for West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. A new study on the economic impact of West Virginia’s coal industry shows that even when facing the worst regulatory pressures in history, the mining and coal-fired power generation industries still generated nearly $14 billion in economic activity for the Mountain State.

“Coal and coal-fired electric power always has been a major driver behind West Virginia’s economy, and this study clearly demonstrates that not only is coal the bedrock of our economy, it’s a key component of our future,” said West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton. “Even following years of decline, the mining and coal-fired power generation industries remain one of the largest economic generators in the state.”

The study, commissioned by the West Virginia Coal Association and conducted by the West Virginia University Bureau for Business and Economic Research (BBER), shows that the mining industry alone spends more than $2.1 billion on wages and coal operators generated approximately $9.1 billion in economic activity in 2019, far more than the entire general revenue budget of state government. 

What’s more, the combined economic impact of coal mining and coal-fired electric power generation was approximately $13.9 billion, meaning the industries supported 17 percent of the state’s total economic output or one out of every six dollars generated.

Dr. John Deskins, BBER director, said the total economic impact of coal mining does not end at the mine – it goes far beyond the portal and upstream through the business economy.

“Despite production declines in recent years, coal remains a very important part of West Virginia’s economy, as illustrated in our research,” Deskins said. “Coal continues to support a sizeable share of the state’s economic output and thousands of high-paying jobs.”  

Hamilton noted that West Virginia’s eight coal-fired electric manufacturing facilities are among the most modern and efficient electric generators found anywhere in the world. ”Not only are these facilities responsible for a big piece of our economy, they continue to provide low cost, uninterrupted power to millions of consumers in West Virginians and our surrounding states. Given the results of this study and the contribution of these plants to grid security and resiliency, and homeland security, it’s inconceivable that extreme environmental groups and other organizations, similar to the Biden Administration, want to see these facilities close prematurely or transition away from the coal. “

The coal industry acknowledges the build out of renewable energy forms as well as West Virginia’s vast reserves of shale gas but asserts that we should not be trading one energy job for another or unnecessarily shortening the life of these foundational contributors to our economy and industrial job base. 

Highlights from the report include:

  • Coal mining and coal-fired electric power generated approximately $13.9 billion in total economic activity in the state of West Virginia. For context, total economic output for the state (GDP) was around $77 billion.
  • Coal mining and coal-fired electric power generation supported nearly 33,000 jobs in West Virginia.
  • Coal mining and coal-fired electric power generation provided around $2.8 billion in employee compensation. Coal mining posts the highest average annual wages among all other industries in West Virginia.
  • Coal mining and coal-fired electric power generated nearly $611 million in select state and local tax revenue for West Virginia and its local governments. 
  • West Virginia coal exports consistently make up a large share of U.S. coal exports – nearly one-third of the nation’s total economic export value.

For information or to request a copy of the full report, please contact Chris Hamilton at the West Virginia Coal Association, (304) 342-415