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When we talk about the impact coal has had on the Mountain state economy, some are tempted to narrow it down to the more than 13,000 West Virginia workers who are directly employed in coal mines. When you toss that number around, it doesn’t seem like coal is supposed to be casting the shadow on our economy that it does. But it’s not that easy.

“The fact is, it is still an important force in our state.” said John Deskins, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. “Even though the raw number of jobs related to coal and coal-fired power has declined, it still matters a lot.

“These jobs are still very well paid jobs in terms of jobs that don’t require a college degree. They still have a disproportionate impact on the economy. “

Deskins recently spoke at a meeting between the West Virginia Coal Mining Institute and the West Virginia Coal Association. According to a report by WV News, he talked about both the steep decline in coal over the past 12 years and how coal – despite that decline – is still contributing to our state’s employment base, economic output and overall tax revenue.

In 2019, coal mining here generated around $ 9.1 billion in macroeconomic activity and supported nearly 27,000 jobs with total worker compensation of $ 2.1 billion, according to the report. Coal-fired power plants generated total economic output of around $ 4.8 billion in 2019 and supported nearly 7,000 jobs.

It is understandable that the legislature wants to fight for coal. But Deskin’s report should make her think a little differently. When talking about the decline in coal production and employment, he said: “We all know these trends.”

They don’t turn back so quickly. Knowing how big the impact the coal move will have on our state should inspire lawmakers to pull out the stops on economic development, diversification and education to help coal professionals broaden their options.

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