Alpha Natural Resources passed out pink slips to coal miners at four West Virginia installations Tuesday, including two in Fayette County, blaming the closures on the combined effects of an upsurge in natural gas, soft markets, a warm winter, and rigid enforcement of environmental rules.
President Bill Raney of the West Virginia Coal Association termed the sudden announcement by the Virginia-based coal outfit as “a wakeup call” and accused the Environmental Protection Agency of ignoring recent court rulings that it exceeded its powers in a campaign to “bully” and “intimidate” operators.
“It’s all about the same thing we’ve been talking about, the same terrible uncertainty that’s been created by the EPA and the Obama administration with permitting,” Raney said, shortly after Alpha disclosed its company-wide closures.
Altogether, the firm idled eight mines — four in West Virginia, three in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania.
In West Virginia, the Bristol, Va.-based Alpha identified the closed installations as the Alloy deep mine near Powellton, and the Alloy surface mine near Boomer, both in Fayette County, along with two others in Mingo County, the Premium highwall mine at Gilbert, and the White Flame Surface mine near Wharncliffe.
Virginia mines shut down were Guest Mountain deep mines No. 8 and No. 9 near Norton, and the Twin Star Surface Mine near Hurley. In addition, Alpha said it closed its Dora deep mine in Jefferson County, Pa.
In two recent court edicts, judges held that the EPA had overstepped its boundaries in enforcement of regulations, but Raney said the Obama administration appears to let those decisions go unheeded.
“It seems to be from the standpoint of trying to bully the state and bully the companies,” the coal leader said.
Samantha Davison, representing Alpha’s communications department, pointed to a variety of reasons behind the mine closings.
“You never want to let anyone go,” she said.
“You never want to do layoffs. That’s absolutely the hardest part of all this. We realized we needed to focus our business on two areas — one being metallurgical coal to meet long-term global demand for steel and competitively priced coal for U.S. utilities and export markets.”
Davison cited several factors, such
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