The US coal industry has hope for its future where a year ago there was not any, according to Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association.
Speaking Tuesday at the S&P Global Platts Coal Marketing Days Conference in Pittsburgh, attendees highlighted the improved relationship with the federal government, rather than any major policy changes, since the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.
Raney said the Obama administration launched a “war on coal” in 2008 that crippled the West Virginia coal sector, leaving 60% of the state’s production in bankruptcy and causing production to drop to a 40-year low.
“I don’t know if we’ve totally survived it or not but we’re a hell of a lot closer than we were before November 8,” he said, noting the date of Trump’s election.
Raney said the appointment by Trump’s administration of several government officials with ties to the coal industry to prominent mining and energy policy roles should also prove helpful.
David Stetson, Chairman of Alpha Natural Resources, was more cautious in his evaluation of the new president’s impact, but agreed cooperation from the regulatory environment has improved.
“We have seen some movement back to what I would consider a normal working relationship with the authorities,” said Stetson.
Speaking on the sidelines, an Alaskan miner told Platts, “you could see the change in tone at the federal agency within two months [of Trump’s inauguration]. We had an application approved that had just been sitting there for two years to broaden our mining operation.”
Moving forward, Raney called for the government to incentivize plant upgrades and introduce a requirement for power plants to have at least 30-60 days supply of coal to ensure mine production.
He also suggested there should be more support for domestic rare earths production, as China’s dominance in the space could become a security question. The same argument has been used by US steel producers to call for a section 232 order to limit imports of steel.”
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