Future of W.Va. coal - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Future of W.Va. Coal

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Dec. 17 coal and natural gas are the backbone of the economy in the Mountain State, and he will continue to fight those in Washington, D.C., who are against those resources.

He said with the announcements of Odebrecht and Carbonyx in the state there will be "thousands of jobs in the chemical and polymer industries."

Tomblin said Odebrecht should bring about 12,000 permanent jobs while Carbonyx, involved in steel-making, potentially creating 650 coal-related jobs.

"Our workforce is dedicated to providing the energy our country needs," he said to the crowd the annual W.Va. Energy Summit at the Charleston Marriott Town Center. "I won't back down and will continue fighting for the industry that propelled our nation through two world wars."

Tomblin said West Virginia has a real opportunity to become a leading chemical and polymer producer once again.

The Central Appalachian coal industry is now 43 percent gone and it will never come back, officials said during the 2013 W.Va. Energy Summit on Dec. 17.

Sen. Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., appeared at the energy summit via video message.

The senator had a strong message for those in attendance and wasted no time telling them.

"I've always said we must use all of our domestic resources including coal, natural gas, hydro, wind, oil and solar," Manchin said. "Investing in coal and natural gas is necessary in order to make sure we can efficiently and responsibly produce reliable energy."

Manchin spoke of the importance of ending the country's dependence on foreign oil as well as protecting the good paying job in the country's energy sector.

"In order to keep America strong for future generations, it's important to move this country forward," he said at the energy summit. "Thank you for your participation — may God bless you and God bless the great state of West Virginia."

Rep. Nick Rahall

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said energy production keeps the state running.

"(The state's) heritage is deep in oil, coal and gas," he said. "Which is why we react so fiercely when our energy industry is under attack."

He said he would fight against those in Washington who are after an all-of-the-above energy strategy.

"Coal is not a partisan issue, we are in a heavily partisan era— this is a dangerous side effect to that tactic."

Murray's thoughts

Robert Murray, founder, chairman, president and CEO of Murray American Energy Inc., received a standing ovation from the crowd of business men and women.

"I know the names of those Americans who jobs and family livelihoods are being destroyed," he said. "These folks whose lives are being destroyed are my employees — I know them all by name."

Murray said those in jeopardy because of the war on coal are hardworking Americans trying to make a living for themselves and their families.

"They just want to work and are denied that," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen this is not the United States, this is not the America I cherish."

Murray is the largest private coal mine owner in the country. He recently purchased Consol Energy for $850 million cash, as well as $184 million in future royalty payments for coal reserves.

From the purchase, Murray received four mining operations, 23 towboats and a large fleet of barges, he said. The mines he owns will be named after the counties they reside in including Harrison, Monongalia, Marion, Marshall and Ohio in West Virginia.

A graduate himself of Ohio State, Murray's two sons attended West Virginia University. He owns operations in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Utah and West Virginia. His overall production is at 60 million tons of coal per year. He said they put a large emphasis on fire safety and emergency preparedness.

"The health and safety of our miners is foremost, no question about it," he said of his 70,100 direct employees.

The future of coal in West Virginia is in jeopardy, while China has built a new coal power plant every week for the last several months, Murray added. The numbers don't lie.

Since Jan. 17, 2008, if someone wanted to build a coal plant it would bankrupt them, experts said.

West Virginia Coal Association

Bill Raney is the president of the West Virginia Coal Association. He said the Mountain State has 28 coal-producing counties, while the other 27 receive the benefit of coal production.

"A working West Virginia is a healthier West Virginia contributing to the economy," he said.

Marshall County is the leader in the state producing 17 million tons. The state is the second leading coal producer in the country but employment is down about 3,100 jobs over the last 18 months.

Appalachian Power

Charles Patton, president and COO of Appalachian Power said building new coal plants is impossible. He said it would be cheaper to renovate existing plants. He said the standards for building plants and making them compliant are difficult but not impossible.

"Even though coal is more expensive, the coast is superior to natural gas," he said. "An existing coal plant can be a natural gas plant."

He said the biggest concern for his company is the unwillingness to build natural gas plants.

"The reality is the CO2 debate is one we'll have to figure out in common sense math," Patton said. "I challenge the federal government to be wise in decisions they make."