Thursday, January 21, 2010

Report: Central Appalachia coal to keep declining, so diversification urgent; Web site launched

A new report from a West Virginia environmental consulting group says competition from other coal producing areas and a depletion of reserves is fueling a steep decline in Central Appalachian coal production. The report from Downstream Strategies, a group that works to link economic development with environmental protection, warns this trend is almost certain to continue, Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette reports.

"Given the numerous challenges working against any substantial recovery of the region's coal industry, and that production is projected to decline significantly in the coming decades, diversification of Central Appalachian economies is now more critical than ever," the report said. "State and local leaders should support new economic development across the region, especially in rural areas set to be the most impacted by a sharp decline in the region's coal economy."

Cheap natural gas prices and expected growth from renewable energy are also cited as factors in Central Appalachia's coal decline. The report does not include possible limits to greenhouse gas emissions or mountaintop removal in its conclusion, Ward reports. Authors Rory McIlmoil and Evan Hansen call for "a greater focus, among other things, on encouraging renewable energy, reforestation and reclamation of previously mined lands, and local ownership of future alternative energy developments," Ward writes. You can read the Gazette's print story or Ward's extensive breakdown of the report on his Coal Tattoo blog.

Meanwhile, the Appalachian Transition Initiative, a new partnership between the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, has launched a Web site "to promote an active, action-oriented, public conversation about the necessary transition to a new economy in Central Appalachia," MACED President Justin Maxson reports. The site is

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