Press Archive


The West Virginia Coal Forum with co-hosts the Chamber of Commerce of Martinsburg & Berkeley County, Jefferson County Economic Development Authority, Berkeley County Economic Development Authority, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and the Eastern Panhandle Business Association conducted a meeting on Wednesday, September 4th to discuss the significance of the coal industry and coal exports to the Eastern Panhandle, our state and the nation at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn.Coal Forum Co-Chairmen Chris Hamilton, WV Coal Association, and Fred Tucker, UMWA, welcomed the more than 70 event attendees and set the stage for the meeting.

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito headlined the event and expressed her support for the mining industry and the benefits it provides to the state, including the Eastern Panhandle, and the nation. She stated that EPA’s ongoing regulatory actions are clearly a ‘war on coal’ and that she will continue to do all she can to maintain fairness and industry viability.

While Senator Joe Manchin was unable to attend the meeting, he sent a representative to read a statement. In the statement he offered his appreciation for the event and those participating, and expressed the importance of understanding the benefits mining provides the state and country.

Several Eastern Panhandle legislators were in attendance at the event, including Del. Tiffany Lawrence, Del. John Overington, Del. Ron Walters and others. Senator John Unger, Senator Majority Leader, and Delegate Daryl Cowles, House Minority Whip, addressed the group, highlighting the impact mining has on the region and thanking the event organizers for coming to the area to discuss this important topic.

Bill Raney, president of the WV Coal Association, and Mark Muchow, deputy secretary for the WV Division of Tax & Revenue, shared statistics demonstrating the importance of mining to the Eastern Panhandle, as well as the state. They informed the group that the Eastern Panhandle has received nearly $52 million from coal severance funding through the Infrastructure, Jobs & Development Council since 1994. These funds have been used to leverage tens of millions of dollars in other funding to maintain and upgrade water lines, wastewater treatment and to pursue economic development initiatives. Additionally, Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan Counties received over $820,000 in municipal and county severance tax distributions in 2012.

Jerry Mullins, a representative with the National Mining Association, highlighted the huge role West Virginia’s coal industry plays in coal exports – contributing nearly half of all coal exported from the United States. In 2012, the United States exported 126 million short tons of coal -12 percent more than the previous high set in 1981. Each million tons of U.S. coal exported contributes an estimated 1,320 total jobs to the U.S. economy.

Eugene Trisko, an energy industry economist and attorney representing the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCE), educated the group on the imminent threats posed by EPA’s green house gas regulations.

Trisko offered that West Virginia households with gross annual incomes below $50,000 – representing 61% of West Virginia’s population – spend an estimated average of 21% of their after-tax income on energy. Two proposals facing the industry have the ability to further increase those costs.

The first proposal would impose stiffer air quality regulations on currently operating power plants. The second would impose performance standards for new generation facilities. Both rules create a standard that is unattainable by coal-fired power plants under current market conditions and available technologies.

If implemented, Trisko said, literally hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect industry jobs are placed at risk. 

And on a more positive note, Giovanni Girelli and Brad Blasé with Martinsburg-based Essroc Italcementi showcased the role coal plays in the cement industry and their business. Many may not realize that the cement industry is one of the nation’s top users of coal-fired electricity. The company recently invested more than half a billion dollars to upgrade their processing facilities – a huge investment in the region.

Eastern Panhandle media covered the event, to include the Martinsburg Journal, WHAG-TV, WV Public Radio and Reuters. Additionally, Chris Hamilton and Bill Raney conducted live, on-air radio interviews with WEPW and WRNR.