Coal company officials point out that there's been a flurry of layoff announcements this year by some of the region's major coal producers, including Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal. Those figures could show up in state and federal employment figures released for the second or third quarters of 2012.
Echoing the industry remarks, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said the public should not pay attention to the "rosy picture" created by news media reports of the mining industry's employment increase.
"While accurate to a point -- and I don't bemoan any jobs that exist in our state of West Virginia -- those figures are rather misleading," Rahall said. "Those figures, in my opinion, are ignoring what has happened in recent months."
Rahall said his concern is what happens when other EPA regulatory measures -- a cross-state pollution rule, mandated reductions in toxic air releases and a limit on greenhouse gas emissions -- take effect in what he refers to as "the so-called 'train wreck' situation."
Last August, a report by the Congressional Research Service disputed the "train wreck" label that industry officials have given to the EPA regulatory agenda.
The report said the rules would hurt mostly old, outdated power plants that lacked modern pollution controls, were inefficient and were likely to be shuttered anyway. The report also said criticisms of the EPA proposals usually overlook the potential benefits to public health and the environment.
"The costs of the rules may be large, but, in most cases, the benefits are larger," the CRS report found.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.