Interior Secretary Jewell says 200 coal jobs lost throughout U.S. is “minor” | CraigDailyPress.com

Interior Secretary Jewell says 200 coal jobs lost throughout U.S. is “minor”

Patrick Kelly

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell minimalized the impact a proposed rule intended to protect water in the proximity of coal mines would have on coal-reliant communities during a press conference Thursday.

Jewell called the potential loss of approximately 200 jobs across coal country "relatively minor."

The proposed rule would adversely affect 460 jobs but at the same time account for an additional 250 jobs created under the restoration actions required by the plan, Jewell said.

"The net impact is a couple of hundred jobs in coal country, specifically due to this rule," she said. "So, it's relatively minor."

Joseph Pizarchik, director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, expanded on the economic impacts of the surface and ground water rule.

"In total, the analysis predicts an annualized decline in severance taxes of about $2.5 million across all coal producing states," Pizarchik said, adding that the decline would be focused in West Virginia and Kentucky.

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In addition, the rule affects the commercial price of coal.

"From 2020 to 2040 the coal prices are expected to increase a bit in all regions, the largest increase will be in central Appalachia where the coal is most expensive to mine," Pizarchik said.

Pizarchick said an average cost increase of 1.2 percent could be expected.

In terms of utility production, average electricity prices are expected to increase by less that .1 percent under the rule.

In Moffat County, coal is the dominant economic driver and the industry employs hundreds of workers. It also provides millions of dollars in economic impact.

According to Yampa Valley Data Partners, a nonprofit research organization, the top 10 taxpayers in Moffat County are energy related.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which operates Craig Station and Colowyo Mine, is the number one tax contributer in Moffat County with $5,762,011 of taxes paid in 2014.

Although the rule proposes to create work based on restoration efforts, it is uncertain if the effort will balance out the loss of mining jobs.

"These jobs that would be added, in theory, would certainly have to be pretty high paying jobs to even come close to rivaling the economic impact of our coal mines," said Keith Kramer, executive director of Yampa Valley Data Partners.

According to Yampa Valley Data Partners, mining industry jobs pay an average of $1,528 per week — 72 percent higher than an average job in Moffat County.

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