United Mine Workers spokesman Phil Smith told Ward the union has seen more jobs for union members in Northern Appalachia and Alabama. Though mountaintop-removal mines are in Central Appalachian and most are non-union, the UMW says it hasn't seen job loss at unionized surface mines. Whether or not those mines will see losses depends on the extension or renewal of permits, which could be blocked by EPA. Ward reports that West Virginia operator Alpha Natural Resources isn't worried about permitting problems, citing comments from CEO Kevin Crutchfield in which he said "there's nothing in 2012 that is contingent upon any sort of regulatory relaxation or need."
Ward reports "the current increase in jobs comes amid government projections that coal production in Central Appalachia, meaning Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, will decline rapidly through the rest of the decade." He writes that West Virginia University law professor Pat McGinley told a U.S. House subcommittee there is evidence that one form of stricter regulations might actually increase jobs. He asked the subcommittee to see "why federal and state agencies have not enforced post-mining land development requirements for mountaintop-removal mining operations if they're concerned about coalfield jobs." (Read more)