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Coal Company Says EPA Partially to Blame for Layoffs

2014-08-01_14-27-32Alpha Natural Resources, a coal company based in West Virginia, has told 1,100 of its workers to prepare for layoffs because of EPA regulations and weak market conditions, according to The Hill.

The company specifically stated that 11 mines across the state were “subject to being idled.”

In a statement, the company said that EPA regulations were at least partly responsible for more than 360 coal-fired electric generating units in the US closing or switching to natural gas, and that nearly one of every five existing coal-fired power plants was closing or converting to other fuel sources.

A proposed rule by the EPA would require that states cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

While the company blames the proposed regulations for the downward spiral, it also blames low prices and competition with natural gas, noting that the price of coal shipped to overseas power plants is hovering at a four-year low due to the excess supply of coal worldwide. The drop in overseas coal demand and low prices have also contributed to the layoffs, the company said.

With natural gas on the market as an alternate fuel, coal has steadily been replaced by the cheaper fuel. The company cited this as a “major contributor” to the erosion in the demand for coal.

The layoffs would not take place until mid-October, according to the company.

According to Gina McCarthy of the EPA, the proposed regulations would allow each state to select a carbon cutting design of their own, and that if a state wanted to invest in its coal plants and make them cleaner, then that would be their option.

Industry groups voiced their opposition to the new carbon rules in a letter to the EPA last month.

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One thought on “Coal Company Says EPA Partially to Blame for Layoffs

  1. Blaming the EPA, even in part, is completely incorrect.
    According to the article, the company is contemplating layoffs beginning in October. But the EPA rules for existing power plants couldn’t even begin to kick in until several years after that – so the proposed rules can have no part in the layoff decision. And by definition, the already-implemented EPA rules for new power plants have absolutely no effect on the closing or switching from coal to natural gas among the 360 existing power plants that the company cites.
    Indeed, the Hill article says that EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia indicated that the EPA’s proposal does not “mandate” states retire any coal plants; and quoted her words that “The truth is that the decline in coal jobs began well before President Obama took office, largely as a result of market forces, including greater energy efficiency and cheap natural gas … That’s also because of aging equipment — the average coal plant in the U.S. is 42 years old.”

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