Bristol-based Alpha Natural Resources announced this morning that it will close eight coal mines, including three in Virginia, and eliminate 1,200 jobs company-wide. The Associated Press reported that Alpha will cut production 16 million tons by early 2013 as it shifts away from thermal coal used for domestic power generation and focuses on metallurgical coal used in overseas steel production.
An Alpha executive said the transition is necessary because power companies are shifting to abundant, affordable and cleaner-burning natural gas, and federal regulations have put new constraints on burning coal.
U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, issued a statement expressing dismay over the news and blasted President Barack Obama’s administration for regulatory policies designed to “make using coal history.”
Here’s Griffith’s full statement:
“The announcement of layoffs in Buchanan and Wise, added to the layoffs of two weeks ago at Consol, makes this already extremely disappointing news all the more troubling. Certainly, the coal industry, like so many other industries, experiences natural ups and downs. In today’s market, natural gas is plentiful and cheaper than coal, so in many instances it is being used as a substitute for coal. But, the fact that the coal industry has ups and downs isn’t news.
“The newsworthy issue lies with the additional burdens the Obama Administration is placing on folks like Alpha. As I’ve said before, President Obama, his Administration, and his allies – like MoveOn.org and the Sierra Club – are all very clear about their agenda – make using coal history. Take a minute to think about that. A group of government bureaucrats have decided the coal industry isn’t something that they like, so they’re going to try to force it out of business. This is appalling and it must stop. I and others in Congress will fight them. For all the hundreds of hard working men and women miners affected by today’s news and impacted by this agenda, please know that I stand with you. I’m proud to represent you. I’m proud to stand with coal. And I will continue to relentlessly fight against President Obama and all those who wage war on the coal industry.”
Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen also issued a statement on the mine closings:
“I’m saddened to hear of three more coal mines closing in Virginia because I know how much these jobs mean to families and all the hard-working people in Southwest Virginia. These closures will harm jobs for all the contractors and suppliers of the mine operations. This will have a detrimental effect on railroad jobs and all Virginians may have to ultimately pay higher electricity bills. Unfortunately, these mine closures are only the latest examples of how Washington’s regulatory assault on coal is turning Virginia’s coalfield communities into ghost towns. The political appointees of the unelected, unaccountable EPA are effectively banning coal through excessive, overreaching regulations that are forcing coal mines to shut down. My opponent’s advice on energy regulations is ‘don’t try to weaken’ them, while he has championed a Cap-and-Trade energy tax scheme that would further eliminate coal jobs and cause electricity prices to skyrocket. As a friend of coal, I am committed to standing up for the hard-working people of Southwest Virginia and ending Washington’s assault on coal that is hurting Virginia jobs, families and communities.”
Update: And now Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has weighed in:
“President Obama’s war on coal has claimed its latest victims with the news that 1,200 workers in states like Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania will lose their jobs. The Obama Administration’s economic and regulatory policies are destroying jobs across the country and coal communities have been among the hardest hit. For the sake of so many hardworking Americans and the families that depend on them, this must change. I have spent my life creating jobs. Barack Obama has spent his presidency destroying them. Coal country deserves better over the next four years.”
– Michael Sluss