It has been a domino effect for the coal industry and the economy here in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.
The “war on coal” that the Obama administration has waged on Appalachia has devastated this region.
A recent Wall Street Journal article by Paul Tice titled it “Obama’s Appalachian Tragedy.”
Since 2008, more than 10,000 miners have been laid off. The number of coal mines that have been shut down is alarming. The production of coal is down by millions of tons according to the West Virginia Coal Association. This means millions of dollars in lost wages.
But the ripple effect spreads out to many more businesses. First it is the railroad, which has laid off many workers and more furloughs are likely to come in the next year. Then it is the trucking industry. If the coal is not dug out of the earth and sold, then there is nothing for the truckers to haul in this region.
It continues to trickle down to the mining machine shops, the mine supply companies, the electrical supply businesses and other coal related jobs.
The economy continues to suffer from all of those layoffs and cutbacks. The next to suffer could be the grocery store down the road or the convenience store that sells gas and lunch items.
Now we are seeing the effect in the school systems in most southern West Virginia counties. Teachers, counselors and administrators are being laid off on a daily basis.
This wave of shutdowns then affects the basic tax system in the coal counties, forcing layoffs in many other jobs like at the courthouse. Even the local law enforcement agencies like the sheriff’s departments are effected. The funding for jobs is just not there.
So many were duped into voting for Barack Obama back in 2008, and maybe less voted for him in 2012, but it is hard to defeat an incumbent. He was voted back in as president of the United States. However, it seems as though he has hurt the Appalachian region more than any other in the country.
He campaigned on diversity and other “clean coal” jobs. But where are those jobs?
This area has probably not seen a decline like this in its economy since the great depression of the 1930s and the early 1960s when President Lyndon Johnson launched his “War on Poverty.”
Mountain people are having to relocate, much the way they did in the late 1950s and early 1960s when there was a mass exodus north up U.S. 23 to places like Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan in an effort to find work.
Since 2012, close to 30 coal mining companies have filed for bankruptcy. Strong companies like Alpha Natural Resources (formerly Massey), James River Coal and Patriot Coal have seen their production in coal drop since 2009, after Obama took office.
Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has run roughshod over the coal industry.
The regulations placed on the coal industry have simply destroyed the economy in Appalachia. It may be too late for it to ever rebound and bounce back.
This year’s election is so important. But even if a “coal friendly” administration gets back in the White House, it will be a long hard climb back up. Much like it is a difficult climb to traverse the steep hills of Appalachia.
Southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky are in a fight for survival.
Let’s just hope it is not too late. The dominos have fallen and may never be able to be put back into place.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern)