Coal miners union presses for first wind and solar jobs for displaced miners

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — On Monday, UMWA President Cecil Roberts stunned many at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

In the past, the coal miner’s union has been resistant to the solar and wind energy businesses expanding here. But now, the union says displaced coal miners should be offered the first jobs and training in the wind and solar industries.

“Let’s bring those jobs to Appalachia and let’s pay a decent wage where people can support their families. We desperately need those jobs,” said Cecil Robert, President, United Mine Workers of America.

The West Virginia Citizens Action Group has long advocated for the clean energy training of displaced coal miners.

“The industry is dwindling. There are new energy jobs that will be coming into West Virginia. And we’re absolutely 100 percent behind the mineworkers being first in line to get those jobs,” said Gary Zuckett, West Virginia Citizens Action.

But the West Virginia Coal Association is not happy with the union. It says that coal is still 20% of the West Virginia economy, and despite losing 6,000 jobs in March and April of 2020 says the industry is still vital according to a recent WVU economic study.

“The total value of coal mining and coal-fired generation is within the state is to be within $14 billion dollars today and you know that’s still a huge percentage,” said Chris Hamilton, West Virginia Coal Association.

The association says coal is still a crucial ingredient to making steel around the world, and you can’t replace that with solar or wind.

“Many in the West Virginia Legislature are on board. In 2020, lawmakers passed a new law to promote the transition to more wind and solar energy in the Mountain State,” Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.

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