The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 31, 2013

Gloomy forecast for coal

Industry leader cites EPA as an engineer of a ‘train wreck’ at West Virginia Chamber of Commerce business summit

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — An industry leader sees a bleak day coming in the not-too-distant future for regions that depend on coal to produce paychecks and keep schools open and municipal governments functioning.

Behind the gloomy forecast, Nick Carter told the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce in Friday’s conclusion of its annual business summit, is  what he described as the “train wreck” engineered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“If you want to know what West Virginia is going to look like in a very few years, go across the border to eastern Kentucky,” said Carter, president and chief operating officer for Natural Resources Partners, based in Houston, Texas.

“You’ll find cities and counties that are in total panic mode because they do not know how they’re going to survive from a tax standpoint, how they’re going to survive a mass exodus or how they’re going to survive with a school system with a decrease in population of 10 percent a year.”

Carter told several hundred attendees at the summit, held this week at The Greenbrier, that the EPA, since former administrator Lisa Jackson was named by President Barack Obama to her post, has been taking marching orders from such groups as the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Jackson was succeeded by Gina McCarthy, and in regard to her, it appears that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is growing impatient about an invitation extended by a West Virginia delegation this summer for her to visit mining sites before more stringent regulations are imposed on the industry.

Tomblin told The Register-Herald after announcing an expansion by Toyota in Putnam County that he hasn’t heard back from McCarthy.

“I’m going to give her a call this week and see what her plans are,” the governor said. “I want to see if she’s going to live up to her word. She promised to take my call and do what she can to work with us.”

If McCarthy reneges on the pledge, Tomblin added, “We’ll continue to fight.”

“We’re in a mess,” Carter told the Chamber summit. “If you’re in the coal business, you certainly understand that.”

Carter said the industry finds itself in “the early stages of a structural change” that began decades ago when the EPA embarked on regulations that affected not only coal but power plants that depend on the fuel to generate electricity.

“Every day in this country we should mine and burn the least expensive coal that is available to us that day,” he said. “It is my belief there is no wisdom in Washington. There’s only ideology and egos. We have to operate within those two constraints.”

Carter said the demise of coal in Kentucky and West Virginia, and other parts of Appalachia, has its genesis with the imposition of the Clean Air Act decades ago.

“If there is a better example of the camel getting its nose under the tent, them I’m not sure that I’ve really seen it,” he said. “It started out rather innocuous and got tighter and tighter and tighter.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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