by Ron Gregory
Charleston – Proclaiming he was right in October 2016, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice cited sources as confirming the increase in coal production this year.
“I know the coal business like the back of my hand and the current spike in the coal market was one I saw coming, and our state legislature refused to listen,” said Justice. “If you go back to the October 2016 debates for governor, I said that coal would rebound and that our severance tax collection would go up. Some people laughed at the time and they were totally wrong.”
The Democrat governor noted a U.S. Department of Commerce report that said West Virginia had the second-highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the country in the first quarter of 2017. The report noted a 21.6 percent increase in mining activity nationwide as one reason for the uptick. The Mountain State’s increase was listed at three percent.
Justice said a new Reuters analysis says that coal exports are up more than 60 percent this year due to soaring demand from Europe and Asia.
Both Justice and now-President Donald Trump, a Republican, based a large part of their coalfields campaigns to proclaiming that coal production would increase. Trump has signed executive orders loosening some federal regulations on coal operations, which is credited with some of the gains as well.
Justice continued, “because the Legislature failed to listen to the experts and my knowledge of the energy market, they cut the budget and hurt our people when they didn’t have to. The good news about coal confirms that we could have and should have been prepared to take advantage of increased severance tax revenue.”
The governor concluded, “this is good news but we are not out of the woods just yet because the energy jobs haven’t materialized in West Virginia just yet. We need to be in a position to capitalize on this coal rebound, and continue to look to diversify our economy while looking for ways to get more miners back to work.”