May 31, 2011

Coal "Ghost Towns" Loom in West Virginia

(CNN Money) West Virginia's coal industry helped insulate the local economy from the worst of the recession, but now the state could be in danger of losing that crutch.

As other states face major budget shortfalls, West Virginia is expecting a surplus for the fourth year in a row. It hasn't had to lay off state employees, and it boasts one of the strongest rainy-day funds in the country -- mostly due to a run-up in coal prices over the last few years.

But West Virginia is dealing with a crisis of its own, as its coal industry faces increased competition from other regions and heightened scrutiny from government regulators.

The federal government predicts coal production in Central Appalachia -- which includes West Virginia's southern coal fields -- will decline 40% in the next five years, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs there.

That could be a death knell for places like Boone County, where roughly 3,800 of its 8,600-person workforce are employed by 93 mines. And that doesn't include jobs that support the industry indirectly.

Read more HERE.


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