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Taking a stand

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World Coal,

At the West Virginia Coal – 2015 & Beyond Forum – in a series of events hosted by West Virginia Coal Forum, West Virginia, community and industry leaders and key lawmakers came together to discuss the impact of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

The event opened with Chris Hamilton, Senior Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association and Co-Chairman of the Coal Forum, stating the situation is at crisis level. Recognising the apprehensions many people have, Hamilton declared now to be a key time to combat the decline in the coal industry and challenged the crowd and political leaders to take a stand.

Hamilton went on to discuss coal’s increased competition from natural gas. He discussed how as coal slowly declines, natural gas has been put in as a potential ‘replacement’ for supply, price and reliability. He emphasised that the forum would not allow this competitor to take over. He said: “We're not going to stand by and trade these coal jobs for gas jobs or any other renewable jobs.”

West Virginia state officials, including Senate President Bill Cole and State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, also spoke at the event and told the crowd that the Mountain State has led a 15-state coalition to stop the Clean Power Plan in its preliminary stages.

Morrisey said: “Unfortunately, we know we have a president who will literally stop at nothing to restrict the use of coal in West Virginia. (But) I see a very bright future for coal in the state of West Virginia.”

“Keep the faith. We are going to prevail. It's just a matter of time.” Morrisey said.

Cole told the crowd a lot had been achieved during the previous session to help the industry at the state level, but there is more to do. He acknowledged his recent announcement of a gubernatorial bid in 2016, but said the 2016 legislative session is still the main focus.

"The work’s just begun. We’re looking forward to next session,” Cole said. “"That light at the end of the tunnel? That's a miner's hat or light bulb powered by coal and it's going to stay that way."

Jeff Herholdt with the West Virginia Division of Energy also addressed potential economic impacts under Clean Power Plan. He discussed projections that electric bills would increase by 26% and gas bills would rise by 60% under the rule.

John Christy, a Climate Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, also spoke against the proposed federal regulations. He commented: “climate change is a political issue.”

A panel discussion including Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association; Mark Dempsey, Vice President of Appalachian Power; and Roger Horton, president of United Citizens for Coal closed the event. Together they stressed the importance of taking a stand, discussed the future with potential encounters of blackouts in winter in the PJM electric transmission region, which covers West Virginia and how coal can compete if there is a level playing field.

Edited from Press Release by Harleigh Hobbs

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