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Will The Patriot Coal Agreement Affect Jobs?
Written by Pierce Legeion
Last updated on November 16, 2012 @ 7:06PM
Created on November 16, 2012 @ 6:34PM
Patriot Coal has become the first U.S. coal operator to agree to stop large-scale mountaintop removal mining in our region.  Three environmental groups who sued the company over the practice are happy, but what is it going to mean for jobs?

Patriot Coal is one of the largest mountaintop removal mining companies in the region.  The move to phase out this mining practice is not expected to hurt jobs in the short term, but the long term effect on jobs is a little unclear.

In a historic agreement, bankrupt Patriot Coal has agreed to phase out and eventually stop all large-scale mountaintop mining in our region.  The agreement is part of a settlement with 3 environmental groups, who sued the company over pollution concerns related to the practice.  Mountaintop removal is a very effective mining practice, but it also is very destructive and has led to concerns over air and water pollution for those living nearby.

"They are under obligation to cleanup the selenium pollution coming out of their mines.  They have a huge commitment, unbreakable, that they have to correct that" said Jim Sconyers, chair of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, one of the environmental groups involved in the suit.

While the environmental groups see this as a huge win, many local officials are concerned about a loss of mining jobs here in the Mountain State.

"Am I concerned about losing jobs in northern West Virginia from coal?  Absolutely.  I think we'll lose a lot of jobs here as the surface mine and deep mine permits become harder and harder to get" said Mon County Commissioner Asel Kennedy.

Since mountaintop removal mining is being phased out over the next several years, immediate job losses are not expected, but it is unclear how jobs will be affected in the long term.  The agreement also sets caps on how much coal the company can produce from strip mining and will give them more time to install required treatment systems to lower selenium pollution.  Many expect that as the company moves toward more environmentally friendly mining practices, they may be forced to cut jobs.

"As we move further down the road, we're gonna have to see what Patriot's specific plans are with respect to their, what they call, new focus on underground mining and smaller surface mines" said Phil Smith, communications director at the United Mine Worker's of America.
We did also receive a press release from Representative McKinley today and he said this:

"Our sympathy goes out to the miners impacted by this decision as they face an uncertain future in a sluggish economy."

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