Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Arch Coal Fires Another 213 Workers - It's the tip of the Iceberg

Some are reporting almost half the coal mining jobs in the region have been lost since 2009.

On July 30 the AP reports that Arch Coal posted a $96.3 million loss - they also suffered a loss of $72.2 million the same quarter of last year.

Radical environmentalists are cheering as another 213 high paid mining jobs are destroyed and hundreds are left with an uncertain future. The losses will hit workers in Wise County Virginia and Letcher County, Kentucky. Wise County is already in dire straits unable to fund its schools.

This is in addition to 100 layoffs last year. Declines in demand for metallurgical coal is blamed. I'm from Wise County and have watched this for years as millions were wasted on endless pork-barrel nonsense that has produced nothing. Arch Coal's stock dropped to $2.96.

What is worse is the ripple effect through the community in this case Appalachia Virginia. Mining jobs are high paying and one of the few good jobs available to those without advanced degrees or connections to government. Every job lost takes down two service sector jobs with it. The real impact is more like 500-600 in the community. Ref. BHC July 22, 2014.

If we throw in mining job losses in nearby Buchanan County that brings the total to over 600 in the last few months. In 2012 "Alpha Natural Resources Announced It Is Eliminating 1,200 Jobs, Nearly A Tenth Of Its Work Force."

Virginia power producers Appalachian Power and Dominion Power plan to close or convert to natural gas four coal-fired plants and electricity costs are expected to soar. Dominion was seeking a 4.1 percent rate increase in May 2014. The Virginian-Pilot noted,

"The request is described as necessary to maintain Dominion's electrical grid and cover higher costs of natural gas and power purchased out of state...

But the utility will need to do more in coming months and years to increase its use of renewables and nuclear power, a move that will both improve the environment and protect the utility and Virginians from the energy market's fluctuating costs."

So we are hit in this region going and coming - Republicans blame it on the EPA and Obama but they are not the real problem. The State of Virginia has mandated power producers use 12 percent 'renewable' sources by 2022. See Southwest Virginia Can't Afford Green Power.

That's why they buy wind or solar power from out of state - at much greater cost along with shutting down coal plants or when converted to gas that also comes from outside the state. This growth in power consumption is being driven by growth in Northern and Eastern Virginia - but everyone pays the cost!

One recent example was building a coal-fired plant in Russell County Virginia in Southwest Virginia then send the power across the state to Northern Virginia - and everyone paid for the transmission lines to do it!

Note that Bristol Virginia-Tennessee is on TVA which is another story.

The Pilot notes Virginia power rates are cheaper than most but they don't live here. These higher rates can be easily absorbed in wealthy Northern and Eastern Virginia but not in Southwest or Southside where the median family income is half the state average and in many areas falling.

Coal mining job losses and spiking power rate increases are bad enough, but it will have other potential drawbacks for this region. To hold onto what manufacturing jobs that are left we are dependant on 1) growing levels of corporate welfare, 2) cheap labor, and 3) cheap electricity - all three a potential disaster waiting to happen.

July 26, 2014

History of Local Poverty

Ralph Stanley Museum.

"The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia...more indictments for political and public office corruption have happened in this region than all other parts of the state combined." Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Governmental Studies.

"It's a little-known fact that roughly 20 percent of the children in Southwest Virginia live below the poverty line and go hungry every night." Kevin Crutchfield, President Alpha Natural Resources, January 15, 2009

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