Mine closing wipes out many of Trump's coal job gains

Despite many promises from President Trump that he would bring back coal jobs, the industry has only added 500 jobs, ...

Posted: Jan 10, 2018 6:24 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2018 6:24 PM

Despite many promises from President Trump that he would bring back coal jobs, the industry has only added 500 jobs, or a 1% increase, during his first year in office.

And now a coal mine near the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border is due to close, costing 370 of those jobs.

The mine is the 4 West Mine, owned by Mepco LLC. In a notice sent to the state of Pennsylvania last week, the company said that the mine is no longer productive enough to be economically competitive given current market conditions. It will be permanently shut.

Nearly 200 of the workers will lose their jobs on March 2. Most of the remaining workers will be laid off by June 1, once they are done removing equipment.

The decision is a blow for Greene County, a rural area of only about 38,000 people. The mine is the fourth largest private sector employer in the county, according to the state figures. Unemployment now stands at 5.2%, somewhat above the national average, but there aren't many jobs in the region that offer similar pay.

"We're an energy county. There's a lot of natural gas drilling going on. But a gas site only has a few employees. It doesn't employ like a coal mine does," said Blair Zimmerman, chairman of the county commissioners and a retired coal miner. "Layoffs are bad, but when it comes to shutting down a mine, that's as bad as it gets."

He said miners in the low-cost rural county sometimes make more than $100,000 a year thanks to overtime pay.

Related: How this Kentucky coal town is trying bring its economy back

Zimmerman said another mine in the county closed two years ago, and it's been apparent for sometime that the industry wasn't going to bounce back to its former strength.

"Coal is still a good product, but natural gas is a big factor. It's cheaper and it's cleaner," he said.

The county, traditionally a Democratic stronghold, went strongly for Trump in the 2016 election, with 68.4% voting for Trump and only 28.2% for Clinton.

"They voted for Trump because he said he'd bring back coal. It's not happening," said Zimmerman, a Democrat. "There's not been any significant change in the industry since he's taken over."

Related: Coal CEO slams Trump for picking 'inadequate bureaucrats'

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a proposal from the Trump administration earlier this week that would have subsidized power plants like coal and nuclear that maintain a 90-day supply of fuel on site.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry argued there was a need to improve the resilience of the nation's power grid from severe weather. But critics said it was simply a bailout for forms of energy that were no longer economically competitive. Most of the members of FERC had been appointed by Trump.

But the decision to close the 4 West Mine came before the vote by the regulators, so even that subsidy play probably would not have changed the industry economics enough to keep it open.

Company officials did not respond to a request for comment about their closure plans.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319381

Reported Deaths: 7354
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22264265
Hinds20634421
Harrison18381316
Rankin13862282
Jackson13677248
Madison10234224
Lee10050176
Jones8458167
Forrest7821153
Lauderdale7257242
Lowndes6498149
Lamar633688
Lafayette6298120
Washington5418136
Bolivar4835133
Panola4663110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4597146
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc424973
Monroe4155135
Union415576
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4007111
Hancock386087
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3366110
Alcorn324172
Scott319374
Yazoo314171
Itawamba305077
Adams304885
Copiah299766
Coahoma298383
Simpson298189
Tippah291568
Prentiss283561
Leake271774
Marion271280
Covington267083
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George251951
Newton248563
Tishomingo231267
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210459
Holmes190374
Clay187554
Stone187433
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135247
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee127934
Perry126638
Amite126142
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Tunica108027
Jefferson Davis107833
Claiborne103030
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96628
Franklin85023
Quitman81816
Choctaw79018
Wilkinson69332
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 547873

Reported Deaths: 11274
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809141565
Mobile41984826
Madison35629523
Tuscaloosa26147458
Shelby25580254
Montgomery25075611
Baldwin21805313
Lee16248175
Calhoun14710325
Morgan14618285
Etowah14160362
Marshall12446230
Houston10757288
Elmore10292212
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10155250
Cullman9928200
Lauderdale9591248
DeKalb8963189
Talladega8455184
Walker7330280
Autauga7229113
Blount6937139
Jackson6905113
Colbert6406139
Coffee5622126
Dale4929114
Russell454541
Chilton4470116
Franklin430783
Covington4267122
Tallapoosa4127154
Escambia401180
Chambers3723123
Dallas3606156
Clarke352861
Marion3237106
Pike313978
Lawrence3124100
Winston283272
Bibb267664
Geneva257081
Marengo250665
Pickens236662
Barbour234559
Hale226678
Butler223771
Fayette217762
Henry193743
Cherokee187245
Randolph186944
Monroe179141
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155157
Cleburne153144
Lamar146237
Lowndes142053
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113230
Coosa111429
Perry108726
Sumter105732
Greene93434
Choctaw61725
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 64°
Oxford
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 63°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 64°
High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast through most of the work week. This will mean much more in the way of dry and hot weather will be the weather rule through our Friday. However, changes may be coming to our area for this weekend.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather