The number of exhibitors for the upcoming Bluefield Coal Show continues to grow, and an increase in coal production is cited as providing a positive impetus.
Charles A. Peters, longtime chairman of the show, said the number has climbed to more than 190.
“We are happy to share that exhibitors continue to call and reserve space in the show,” he said.
The biennial coal show, hosted by the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, is set for Sept. 13-15 at the Brushfork Armory.
Joshua Cline, president and CEO of the chamber, said that the uptick in production helps make it a good time to have a coal show.
“We feel it’s important that companies come and showcase at the 2017 Bluefield Coal Show due to the rebound in the industry at this time,” he said.
Cline said that, according to coalzoom.com, weekly coal production has increased by 14.5 percent nationwide over last year with bigger bumps in West Virginia (19.8 percent), Pennsylvania (19.7 percent) and Wyoming (19.8 percent).
Exports were up 58 percent during the first quarter from last year.
Jason Bostic, with the West Virginia Coal Association, said there are two main reasons for the increase in production.
“I think it’s the improving market conditions for metallurgical coal (used in steel-making) as the economy comes out of the depression it has been in,” he said.
The other reason is the easing of environmental regulations coming out of Washington, creating a more positive environment for production.
But it’s not just metallurgical coal, he said. It’s also thermal coal, which is used to fire power plants.
“It (the uptick) is for all coal,” he said. “There has been a greatly improved amount of steam (thermal) coal leaving our shores, but it’s domestic as well.”
Bostic said as the nation’s economy “wakes up” there is an increasing demand for electricity.
“And I think we have a regulatory environment that allows us to take advantage of this,” he said, referring to the Trump Administration’s moves to reign what it terms as excessive environmental regulations from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
Some of those regulations have been aimed at emission standards at coal-fired plants.
Another part of Trump’s agenda is to invest in the nation’s infrastructure.
If that plan goes through, it could be a “godsend to extreme Southern West Virginia,” Bostic said, because part of that package is the requirement of all steel used in the infrastructure to be made in the United States using domestic coal.
This region is known for its high-quality Metallurgical coal.
The West Virginia Legislature has also helped in recent years as well, he said, pointing out that legislators have made changes over the last three years on environmental and mine safety regulations.
“Those changes have lifted otherwise pointless costs off the industry so we have a better chance of competing in the market,” he said.
Bostic said in the aftermath of previous problems that would pop up on occasion in the mining industry in the state, new regulations were written.
“After every single crisis in mining or a specific problem, instead of dealing with it on a case-by-case bases, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wrote a whole new set of regulations for that one incident,” he said, adding that the result was a layering of regulations that were too restrictive and costly to the industry, and they were regulations that did not exist in any other state.
“We call it West Virginia only standards,” he said, and that is a problem legislators have been working to fix.
All of this adds up to positive news for the industry.
“Now, more than ever, the industry must come together and businesses must support one another in this industry and region as we settle into the new economy,” Cline said.
Cline also said that Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, will be the guest speaker at the Media Appreciation Breakfast on Sept. 13 at the armory and provide a further analysis of the industry.
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