WV Business & Industry Council Disappointed in Gov. Tomblin’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President  

Chris Hamilton
Chairman, WV Business & Industry Council
April 30, 2016

Charleston, WV – The West Virginia Business & Chris-HamiltonIndustry Council (BIC) is extremely disappointed that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin decided to endorse a presidential candidate who has expressed nothing but disdain for West Virginia’s coal industry and the thousands of families it supports.

“Gov. Tomblin calls West Virginia’s coalfields home, and his endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president means our governor officially is turning his back on the plight of the thousands of West Virginians and their families who are struggling because of the Obama Administration’s war on Appalachian coal,” said BIC Chairman Chris Hamilton. “Mrs. Clinton has stated clearly and unambiguously on national television that her administration will put even more coal miners out of work. Why would West Virginia’s chief executive declare that this person is right for West Virginia and the rest of the nation

“In his announcement throwing support behind Clinton, Tomblin said he has concerns about her position on fossil fuels,” Hamilton continued. “Well, his concerns should stretch to the entire U.S. economy because her plans for America will be nothing more than a continuation of Obama’s reign of economic terror. Clinton is bad for West Virginia, and Clinton is bad for America. We need a change, not more of the same ill-fated and short-sighted economic policy that we have had for the last seven years.”

The West Virginia Business & Industry Council’s goal is to enhance the business climate in West Virginia, and its members have been working to that end for more than three decades.

For additional information, contact Chris Hamilton at (304) 549-8231.

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Coal Association VP thinks Manchin should not support Garland nomination

By Alex Wiederspiel in News | April 05, 2016 at 6:43PM

CLARKSBURG, Chris-HamiltonW.Va. — Chris Hamilton, the Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association, does not think Senator Joe Manchin should need any additional input on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Justice Garland is a sitting judge on the D.C. Circuit, and he’s had a number of EPA cases before him,” Hamilton said Tuesday on the MetroNews-affiliated “The Mike Queen Show” on the AJR News Network. “And he has, almost without exception, upheld the agency’s rules, rule making, and requirements that it has proposed and implemented.”

The WV Coal Association sent an open letter to Senator Manchin expressing their disapproval of the nominee.

“We’d like to see Senator Manchin join with the core of U.S. senators who have vowed not to seat Justice Garland,” he said.

Garland has been at the center of a largely partisan fight between Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C. over whether or not the Senate would hold any confirmation hearings–or even meet with Garland–following his nomination to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

Hamilton said his association wouldn’t support a nomination that supported the Clean Power Plan, which is facing myriad legal challenges.

“That’s what prompted the letter to Senator Manchin,” he said. “Just remind him of the fact that this Clean Power Plan remains as this President’s center piece of his Administration.”

Hamilton was quick to blame the EPA and the Obama Administration for the losses suffered by the coal industry.

“That program has resulted in the complete decimation of the state’s coal industry, shutting down record number of mines, laying off of thousands and thousands of miners practically just destroying our state’s economy,” he said.

Senator Manchin reportedly met with Garland on Tuesday.

Since President Obama announced Garland as the nominee, Manchin held a town hall in Charleston to discuss it with constituents.

He also vowed not to support the nomination if Garland was “adamantly entrenched” against the fossil fuel industry.

 

 

Southern States Energy Board opposes Clean Power Plan, Supports Legal Challenge & Option of “No Plan” by Governors

WVCA Welcomes Resolution by Regional Energy Organization

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS – The West Virginia Coal Association applauded this week’s decision by the Southern States Energy Board (SSEB) to add its name to the rapidly growing list of states and organizations opposed to the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.  The SSEB signaled its opposition formally by passing a resolution of opposition at its annual meeting, September 28, in White Sulphur Springs.

In passing the resolution, the SSEB cited the economic costs of the plan including job losses across the region and country, double-digit inflation of energy costs and the endangerment of grid reliability among other factors leading to their opposition to the CPP.

The WVCA welcomes the decision by the SSEB to officially oppose the Clean Power Plan.

“This plan will destroy tens of thousands of jobs across West Virginia,” said Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “And that is on top of the tens of thousands of jobs already lost due to the Obama Administration’s on-going war on coal.  Unemployment across the coalfields is at 13, 14 and even 15 percent and rising. Communities are going bankrupt and it is threatening the budgets and economies of entire states.

“More and more organizations are seeing these policies for what they are and they are standing up in opposition,” Hamilton continued. “Hopefully, we can somehow reach this president and get him to understand that you can’t build an economy on some fantasy, you have to build it on hard work and it has to be grounded in reality. And if we can’t get this president and this administration to act responsibly, then hopefully Congress will listen and we can get the administration’s attacks rolled back through their efforts.”

The resolution was authored by West Virginia’s Legislative coalition and SEEB Members, Senate President Bill Cole and Delegates Woody Ireland and J.B. McCuskey. The resolution was unanimously adopted  by all voting members. Before the measure passed, practically every state voiced its displeasure with EPA and the Clean Power Plan.

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Post-Mine Land Use: Building a New West Virginia

A new comprehensive high school built on a former surface mine.
A new comprehensive high school built on a former surface mine.

By CHRIS HAMILTON

Senior Vice President

GILBERT – In the fall of 2011, Mingo Central Comprehensive High School officially opened its doors to approximately 500 students from all across Mingo County.

Mingo Central is a comprehensive 9-12 high school on a beautiful 90 acre site along the King Coal Highway overlooking the mountains of Mingo County.  It is a 172,535 square foot school containing approximately 60 classrooms, a dining room seating 488 students, a band room for 80 band members, an auditorium seating 400 people and a gymnasium seating 2,160 fans.

The state-of-art school is situated on a former surface mine that was responsible for the enormous amount of site preparation work and reconfiguring of the land to accommodate the school, access roads and necessary infrastructure.  The new school is clearly developed into one of the premier high schools within our state.

Alpha Natural Resources and the School Building Authority joined local, county and state officials in developing this project and it is an excellent example what can be accomplished on former mine sites with careful planning and an eye towards the future.

Mingo Central Comprehensive High School becomes the latest edition to our state’s post mine land portfolio where a little vision, planning, local leadership and broad community support came together to create a state-of-the-state educational facility and the continued viability of a former mine site.

This site joins a growing number of public commercial, industrial and recreational facilities throughout West Virginia that is supporting a new found dimension of our state’s economy and job base.

Infect the West Virginia Office of Coalfield Community Development report more than 13.000 jobs that have been created on post mine land sites. New uses for surface mined lands include residential development, tourism, energy, schools, government facilities and manufacturing.

Sites such as the Medical Center in Weirton to Cabela’s in Wheeling to Mylan Park in Morgantown, the State Prison in Fayette, ERT Convention Center in Logan and the FBI Center in Clarksburg are all on former mine land.  Joining the Mingo County Consolidated High School are the  Mount View High School in McDowell County as well as the Coal City Elementary and Independence middle and high schools in Raleigh County as examples of former mine land being used to improve education across the state.

These former surface mine sites have been critically important, providing land for new industrial, residential and recreational purposes, and many of these projects are able to take advantage and utilize the infrastructure, roads, buildings and electric service established and used during active mining.

More than 10,000 acres of land that was surfaced mined will now become home to the National Boy Scout Jamboree which is set to open in 2012.  Construction and site preparation work has been in operation throughout the past year.  50,000 Boy Scouts will come to the Adventure Center each year.  The economy of Fayetteville will thrive as the direct result of this facility.

The natural landscape of West Virginia can be characterized usually as a narrow valley floor –between 100 and 1000 feet wide — surrounded by steep mountainsides that are often a 50-degree slope or more.

What this means is that any development is naturally limited by the landscape. Overcoming this limiting factor is an expensive undertaking. Moving the amount of earth necessary to build a road, a shopping center, a school or an industrial park requires an investment of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars before construction of the facility or the road even begins.

Accompanying this article is a partial list of facilities either located on former mine lands or in the process of construction. The sites run the gamut of development, including everything from golf courses to hospitals, from schools to industrial parks and from prisons to residential areas. The businesses and facilities located on these sites provide literally thousands of good, quality jobs. These are jobs that would likely not have existed without the land provided at low, if any, cost by the coal industry.

Some critics of surface mining claim that little of the land used for surface mines is potentially developable. However, a look at any of the land use plans of coalfield counties shows this claim is simply not valid.

For example, according to the Logan County Land Use Plan, approximately 65 percent of the surface mine sites in the county are within five miles of a four-lane highway. These sites are also close to air transportation and are within a day’s drive of most of the East Coast.

These sites have the potential to be very attractive to economic development, but the post-mine land use also includes residential, educational and recreational uses. There are many examples of residential, educational and recreational development on these sites.

In West Virginia, the little hollows along which most people live often flood, wiping away lives and life’s work in just minutes. Like industrial and commercial development, the people of West Virginia build their homes along these little hollows because there are no other good options. Building a home on a 50 degree slope is nearly impossible and building on the mountaintop requires providing your own access and utilities.

Former mine lands can be configured for residential development.  At Bright Mountain in Nicholas County, a former mine site provides home sites for more than 100 homes.  In Weirton, almost 80 percent of the community is on former mine land.

The calculation is a simple one — West Virginia needs to diversity its economy. In order to do that, the state needs readily developable lands.  Surface mining provides that developable land. Therefore surface mine lands fulfill a need the state has to provide good quality, high paying jobs today and in the future.

These are highly coveted awards and something for which everyone in the industry strives and is proud to win.

A Few Examples of Post-Mine Land Use

–              King Coal Highway/Coalfields Expressway

–              McDowell County Industrial Park

–              Mingo County Industrial Park/Airport

–              Federal Prison (McDowell County)

–              The Highlands/Cabela’s (Wheeling)

–              Columbia Wood Products (Nicholas County)

–              Bright Mountain (Nicholas County)

–              Twisted Gun Golf Course (Mingo County)

–              Pete Dye Golf Course (Harrison County)

–              Southwest Regional Jail (Logan County)

–              Logan Airport (Logan)

–              Robert C. Byrd High School (Harrison County)

–              Mount View High School (McDowell County)

–              Mylan Park (Monongalia County)

–              Beckley YMCA Soccer Complex (Raleigh County)

–              FBI Complex (Harrison County)

–              Mingo High School along King Coal Highway

–              Morgantown Mall

WV Coal: An Opportunity to Lead

By CHRIS HAMILTON

Senior Vice President, West Virginia Coal Association

Coal plays a significant role in our state and across the country, and despite the challenges at home, West Virginia stands to be a global energy leader – if we choose to be.

Coal long has been one of the West Virginia’s leading industries. For decades, it has been providing thousands of good-paying jobs, infusing millions of dollars into local and state economies and providing low-cost electricity for its industries and residents. These are facts not subject to debate.

What also is a fact is that a variety of factors ranging from mild weather patterns, an abundance of inexpensive shale gas, a declining reserve base and unprecedented over-regulation has caused West Virginia recently to experience a loss of coal markets and a decrease in coal production.

I include over-regulation in the factors that have contributed to a decline in coal production because let me assure you, the “War on Coal” is real. It has and will continue to hurt the industry and the thousands of families who rely on coal mining to survive. This misguided assault on coal has hurt and will continue to hurt West Virginia.

We are trying to weather one of the fiercest political assaults that any American has ever seen, and it is not over. But I want to assure every West Virginian that their coal industry is surviving, and we are part of the reason why West Virginia is thriving.

COAL SEVERANCE BOOSTS BUDGET

Never before in the state’s history has the coal industry been responsible for a greater share of the state tax revenues or prosperity throughout all facets of state and local government . According to a report by the West Virginia University and Marshall University business research facilities, the coal industry provides more than $3.4 billion in wages and a total economic impact of $26 billion for the state each year.

As a result of significant and sustained increases in coal severance and other business taxes, the state has been one of a few states to have balanced budgets – and budget surpluses — during the current recession years from 2008 to today. West Virginia’s “Rainy Day” has climbed to unprecedented levels because of annual budget surpluses that have been driven in large part by coal severance tax revenues. I say again: This is a fact.

West Virginia’s coal severance tax is levied based on the sale price of coal, so naturally those revenues reflect the cyclic nature of market pricing. But even with that lack of predictability, coal severance collections alone have more than doubled from 2007 to 2012 to an all-time record high of $500 million last year. Property and income taxes from coal have made similar gains during this period.  Even with current loses and predictions of revised downward adjustments in collections, overall taxes from coal remain higher than ever before.

In addition to severance tax revenues, coal and electric utilities account for over 60 percent of all business taxes. Distribution of coal severance dollars to all 55 counties funds education and social programs – and that’s after the first $22 million goes to infrastructure projects.

Clearly, the positive impact coal has on West Virginia’s economy is well-demonstrated, and it should be respected.

Moving beyond our borders, we believe coal will continue to play an important role in our country’s energy mix for decades to come. And we further believe coal will remain viable throughout the world. It continues to be the largest source of electric power generation among all fuels – over 90 percent in West Virginia and 40 percent in the United States. Domestic and world electric demand and steel production continues to grow – and these demands cannot be met without coal.

Today, as an industry, our role is critically important to our nation’s quest to become energy independent and break that unholy grip of our dependence on foreign oil. Coal holds the key to our country’s ability to become energy independent, secure our borders and bolster our nation’s defense system. Renewable fuel sources have a role to play, but they cannot do what coal does. They cannot power America 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine. Those who claim otherwise are either uninformed or lying.

PREPARING FOR GROWTH OVERSEAS

Without question, coal use will increase around the world. In fact is it already happening.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin recently announced that for the third consecutive year West Virginia exports reached a record level, in 2012 – the growth led by coal exports. In just one year, coal exports grew 40 percent, increasing from $5.3 billion in 2011 to $7.4 billion in 2012. West Virginia coal accounted for 49 percent of U.S. coal exports in 2012.

Seaborne coal tonnage will grow over the next five to seven years, and we have to position ourselves to capitalize on that opportunity by cutting costs, becoming more efficient, influencing public policy and becoming more involved in the politics of the industry.

The use of coal on a world-wide basis is already on the rise. Coal is predicted to surpass oil as the world’s energy of choice by 2017 according to the International Energy Agency.

China, India, Africa and other growing regions are using more coal. Why? A big reason is because steel production is up worldwide, and you cannot make steel without coal. This growth is driving increases in metallurgical coal supplies into developing countries. These nations are growing and consuming steel in developing their basic infrastructure. That work requires more power. More steel plus more power means more coal — it’s a simple equation.

Other nations see coal the way America used to view this resource, as an abundant, low-cost and reliable fuel. America became a manufacturing superpower thanks to coal, and is can’t be a coincidence that our global domination waned when we stopped fostering coal industry development.

Thankfully, other nations are not making this mistake. West Virginia is the epicenter of the coal industry, so the opportunity is ripe for us not only to satisfy our domestic energy needs but to capitalize on rising worldwide coal demand.

SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY

The United States will continue to use coal for years. That is a fact borne out by basic base-load power demands. And globally, coal use will continue to grow. The real questions today are where the coal will come from and who will benefit from the mining jobs and production revenues. Will it be West Virginia or somewhere else? My vote is for West Virginia.

As a state, we have the potential to become the nation’s center for energy and commerce. We have it here if we can compete effectively and sustain our presence in domestic and world markets. We have that opportunity now – if we approach it correctly — with reason, intelligence and common sense.

West Virginia’s coal industry is well-situated to meet the demands of tomorrow, but not without overcoming major challenges on the horizon. The industry has great capacity, committed management, aggressive business plans, a qualified, experienced workforce and a strong will to succeed. And we have pride – we are proud to be West Virginia coal miners. We know we built this state, and we can help rebuild America.

CHALLENGES REMAIN

Now, the reality: The coal industry is being attacked on many fronts today by government and special interests. These attacks have been well documented. And although the industry has always had its share of challenges, never have they been as serious or threatening as they are today.  The United States has its challenges, and West Virginia has its own:

  • Global climate change
  • Cap and Trade legislation
  • Increased renewable portfolio
  • Lack of meaningful national energy policy (including coal-to-liquids technology development and commercialization)
  • EPA’s multi-pronged regulatory assault on Appalachian coal
  • Campaign against mountaintop removal mining

We coined the phrase last fall: “Our government is coming at us by AIR, LAND & SEA!” because the federal government under the current administration was using every resource available to them to harm the coal industry. This regulatory assault settled down while the president was seeking re-election, but the administration has made it clear that it is ready to go back to war with mining.

Even a cursory glance at the “national energy agenda” reveals that federal regulators have created political problems — not technical ones — that caused power plant closings, lost coal production, increased utility rates and fuel switching. These are real threats that have a negative impact on all coal mining in our region and occupy a lot of time within other various legislative and public forums. These are political issues driven by political agendas. They require political solutions supported by educated, brave leaders who look past the rhetoric and focus on the facts.

Closer to home we have our own challenges on top of the regulatory assault. Reports of West Virginia’s declining reserve base have been well documented. Higher production costs and greater geologic and technical challenges mean coal operators are presented with thinner seams and reserves that are more difficult to access. In simple terms, we have mined the easy stuff. But West Virginia has plenty of coal left, and our industry is working hard to bring it to market safely and efficiently.

TIME TO CAPITALIZE

As West Virginia’s immediate future remains challenging, other coal producing regions have a brighter outlook.  The Powder River and Illinois Basins are poised to prosper in the coming years and encroach further into markets heretofore held by West Virginia and other eastern coal producers.

To retain its viability in domestic and world markets, West Virginia’s coal industry must become more efficient and competitive. The industry is committed to operating in the safest and most efficient manner possible with uncompromising detail to environmental quality. Don’t believe the thoughtless banter of those who do not want our miners to work – the coal industry is full of environmentalists, and we take that responsibility seriously.

So the question is: Is our glass half empty or half full? With widespread slow downs, layoffs, mine closures and loss production and growing reports of our demise, some would say our glass appears to be half empty.

But I ask you to look at our industry with fresh eyes. We have the best, highest-grade metallurgical coal and rapidly increasing world demand. As natural gas prices inevitably trend upward, coal will regain market share. In fact, our glass is half-full. Coal production will not return to 165 million tons of annual coal production that we saw in 2008, but we should stay around the 100- to 120-million-ton level. That level is strong and proves that coal will continue to be a major economic driver in our state.

Yes, the coal industry has its challenges at home and abroad, but West Virginia coal can provide for our families, protect America and power the world. The opportunity is before us, and if we do not make the most of it, someone else will. We must work together and make West Virginia the global energy leader we know it can be.