Coal Country And What's Become Of It
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Politics and Activism

Coal Country And What's Become Of It

Well, what do you think keeps the lights on?

Coal Country And What's Become Of It
Denver Post

West Virginia is known for many things such as being the mountain state: it’s famous pepperoni rolls and Mr. Bee’s potato chips, WVU football, singing country roads, and most importantly, producing coal.

Coal was first discovered in West Virginia during the year 1742 by John Peter Salley, in what is now Boone County. Since my family is from Boone County, I know how important coal and mining is to everyone because our state leads the nation in underground coal production.

Over the past couple years, our state has dramatically noticed a significant decrease in the need to produce coal. This leads to numerous mines laying off thousands of workers, cutting back on regulations because of costs or even worse… having to shut down the coal mines that have been in production for hundreds of years.

Coal occurs in fifty-three of West Virginia's fifty-five counties-only Jefferson and Hardy in the eastern panhandle have no coal. And, according to, in 2011, WV mines produced over 144 million tons. Also, fifteen percent of the nation's total coal production comes from our state. The West Virginia Coal Industry provides about 30,000 direct jobs in WV, including miners, mine contractors, coal preparation plant employees and mine supply companies. So, what does this mean now that this precious resource is slowly dying?

I understand that there are safer and clearer ways to create energy and jobs but this is what West Virginia was founded on. It is a big part of our history and it’s who we are. I come from a coal mining family; my great grandfather, grandfather, uncles and cousins.

With that being said, what do you think keeps the lights on? In our state, ninety-ninety percent of the generated electricity comes from coal while in addition to providing the majority of power to thirty-two states. Everyone is all for a “cleaner and safer environment to produce energy,” but they honestly don't worry how it gets to them as long as they have electric in their homes.

Even as coal loses ground to gas, some coal-producing regions, particularly Wyoming and Illinois- still have jobs. Why is that and what is happening to our wild and wonderful state? I want to be able to tell my kids and grandchildren about the legacy of coal and what it means to West Virginia. I hope our state legislative figures out a way to bring back “coal country.”
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