CHARLESTON, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – At the 48th Annual West Virginia Mining Symposium on Jan. 12, Chris Hamilton, President of the West Virginia Coal Association, shared his thoughts on the future of coal in reagrd to the incoming Biden Administration.
While this year’s annual mining symposium- which brings together the entire industry to talk about its current state, challenges and issues- wasn’t as large as in years past, the event was still addressed by several elected officials including U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. Several, as well as key players in the industry.
During the event, Lootpress had the opportunity to speak with Hamilton.
When asked if he has any concerns about the Biden Administration, which has often spoken out against hydraulic fracking on federal lands and has shared plans to transition from the oil industry, Hamilton said the upcoming change in leadership is part of the reason they decided to continue the symposium this year.
“We debated long and hard if we should postpone this and put it off. This is such a great opportunity to share with one another what we think are the challenges and big issues facing the industry. With our recent transition with our federal government and the presidency from former President Trump to President-elect Joe Biden, there’s just a whole universe of challenges, particularly for fossil fuel development and coal mining in states like West Virginia that we have to be aware of and have to be able to deal with as those are presented.”
Hamilton continued, sharing that hundreds of markets have already left West Virginia due to environmental regulations and anti-coal policies.
“We think it’s important that we maintain the current level of coal consumption as a state that we have the past several years, about 25 million tons of annual coal production.”
Hamilton said, while the state has a great core of elected officials who are working to help the coal industry, everyone needs to do a little more to preserve and protect coal.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing everything humanly possible within our own respected area of responsivity to preserve and protect coal mining.’”
One of the issues Hamilton and the West Virginia Coal Association plan to take to the Biden Administration is what the country will look like without the coal industry.
“They have really backed off coal mining and coal consumption to the point where we are getting real dangerously close to having a brown house because of the influx of renewables and all of the assistance and incentives renewables are getting. If we have a real severe weather event, we may have some real difficulty with that. The state has to maintain the base level of coal-fire electricity to keep the grid stable and electrical supplies preserved.”
During Monday’s symposium, Senator Manchin told the audience that he has spoken to Biden about the coal industry and feels that he knows “where the state is coming from.”
“I think he gets it, but there is so much pressure,” Manchin said. “This is our chance.”
One topic that kept resurfacing was the state’s need to make coal cleaner.
Manchin said that, while congressional leaders have had success passing energy, environmental and land conservation acts that aid the coal industry, the state needs to find cleaner ways to use the product.
Michelle Bloodworth, President and CEO of American’s Power, spent the majority of her presentation talking about the needed transition.
“The past few years have been very challenging. We all know that coal is more reliable than wind and solar, and, regardless of how many people like wind and solar, we need electricity 24/7. All of us need to work to remind people why we need a coal fleet and find ways to transition it.”
The innovation to cleaner coal is a topic that Hamilton is looking into and hopes to develop within the year.
The 48th Annual West Virginia Mining Symposium was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Charleston, West Virginia.