Coal company facing aggressive regulations announces 1,200 layoffs

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Coal company Alpha Natural Resources announced Tuesday it would be laying off 1,200 workers and closing eight coal mines to face two new challenges: cheap natural gas and “a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.”

The Associated Press reports that the company is cutting production by 16 million tons and 1,200 jobs nationwide, with 400 layoffs occurring immediately by closing coal mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Four mines will be closed in West Virginia, another three will be closed in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania. All the mines are non-union operations, according to the AP.

In total, nearly one-tenth of the company’s 13,000-person workforce will be laid off.

Republicans jumped on this announcement, criticizing President Obama’s so-called “war on coal” as they work to pass bills aimed at ending new regulations.

The Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012 contains a bundle of provisions which the House has already passed, including one provision which prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and another restricts planned EPA rules regarding coal ash disposal and management.

“President Obama’s War on Coal means fewer jobs and higher energy costs for Americans. Coal is a critical component to our nation’s energy future, and I am proud to support this legislation that will help preserve this vital energy source for future generations,” said Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, one of the leading critics of President Obama’s coal policies, talking about the Stop the War on Coal Act.

The Daily Caller reported in July that 175 coal-fired generators, or 8.5 percent of the total coal-fired capacity in the United States, were expected to be retired in 2012 and Alpha’s announcement comes on the heels of of a rough summer for the coal industry.

For example, in Pennsylvania, PBS Coals Inc. and its affiliate, RoxCoal Inc., laid off 225 workers working in deep and surface mines in July, citing low demand and aggressive regulations.

And OhioAmericanEnergy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., announced layoffs in Ohio after five years of operation and that about 50 employees would be affected.

More recently, Patriot Coal, which filed for bankruptcy in July due to market forces and regulations, announced it was going to cut coal production by 85,000 tons per month for 60 days, which will impact 250 jobs across three mine complexes in Southern West Virginia. This is the latest in a series of cutbacks in recent months.

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