CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While coal mining provides West Virginia valuable jobs and tax revenue, the industry actually costs the state government budget more than it pays, according to a report released Tuesday.
Last year, the coal industry cost the state budget $97.5 million more than it paid in taxes and other revenues, according to the report released by the Morgantown consulting firm Downstream Strategies and the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy.
Government pays out huge sums each year for agencies that regulate coal, tax breaks for mining companies, and coal truck damage to state roads and bridges.
"While the coal industry provides significant benefits for the West Virginia budget, the industry also imposes substantial costs that impacted the budget in 2009 and that have accumulated from past coal industry activity," said lead report author Rory McIlmoil of Downstream Strategies. "These are costs that, lacking a change in state policy, will be paid by the citizens of West Virginia for decades to come."
The report was paid for in part by the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, environmental groups that oppose mountaintop removal and generally favor switching to cleaner forms of energy than coal.
Coal industry officials were still examining the report, but complained to The Associated Press that "anti-coal extremist groups" prepared the study.
"We are still reading it," West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney told the Gazette. "But we think there is a big understatement in revenues in this thing."