"That said, the candidates we endorsed in those races are all supportive of coal miners and their jobs," Smith said. "They are all supportive of secure retirement for coal industry retirees and widows. They are all supportive of strong enforcement of safety and health laws and regulations."
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said his group was disappointed that the industry's campaign to unseat Obama was unsuccessful.
"We'll go through the components of it and see what parts of it can be adjusted," Raney said. "I suspect there's going to be a lot of adjustment that goes on."
But Raney said he feels like the ball is in Obama's court to show coal industry officials the administration is willing to work to address its concerns about regulatory proposals.
"We simply have been victimized by them and targeted by them," Raney said. "There needs to be a change on the side of the administration and then there will be a change by the industry."
Industry experts and analysts have pointed to factors other than new regulations as playing much larger roles in the decline of Appalachian coal: cheap natural gas, competition from other coal basins and the mining-out of the best and easiest-to-reach reserves.
Government and private forecasts have for years projected a decline in Southern West Virginia production, fueled by quality reserves being mined out and increasing competition from giant surface mines in Wyoming's Powder River Basin.
More recently, advances in natural gas drilling resulted in extremely cheap prices, prompting many power producers to switch fuels. Additionally, new EPA efforts to reduce toxic air emissions have forced some utilities to speed up plans to close older, inefficient coal plants that couldn't meet the EPA standards.
The latest data from the federal Energy Information Administration show that utility demand for U.S. steam coal has dropped 17 percent this year, in large part because of competition from natural gas. EIA is projecting the lowest coal consumption by the U.S. electricity sector in at least 20 years.
But in the wake of his own re-election victory, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin repeated his earlier belief that brighter days for the coal industry could be just around the corner.
"Obviously, the loss of coal jobs is a huge concern," Tomblin said Wednesday on the MetroNews radio show Talkline. "Hopefully, the coal market will rebound sometime here in the near future."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.