Gov. Justice announces plan to put tens of thousands of coal miners back to work

Published: Aug. 11, 2017 at 10:30 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says he has presented a plan to President Donald Trump calling for $4.5 billion annually in federal funding to power companies that burn steam coal mined in Northern and Central Appalachia.

According to a release, the plan would put tens of thousands of coal miners back to work in West Virginia and across Appalachia.

"Keeping our Eastern coalfields and our miners working is critical to national security," Gov. Justice said. "All it is going to take to shut the power grid down to the entire Eastern half of the country is a bomb being placed at a key natural gas pipeline or on a major highway artery to the West."

"What if a terrorist would put a M-80?" asked Justice when briefly discussing the incentive last week in a news conference. "It wouldn't take a giant bomb, at pipeline junctions and that would go off...In order to ensure that we never have a catastrophe beyond belief, I want our president to move forward with the possibility of creating a homeland security incentive."

The incentive would guarantee that Eastern coal would be available to keep the power grid up and operational in the event of any type of emergency shutdown that would impact power plants utilizing natural gas or coal produced in other areas of the country.

"I'm working as hard as I can for West Virginia and its people to continue to provide the coal that keeps the lights on in our country," Justice said.

Justice adds he and President Trump are good friends, and had even presented the plan to Trump at the White House.

Coal advocates say have years of struggle, they're glad to see active plans made to better the industry.

"It's been probably the eight toughest years the industry has had, I think ever, particularly our generation," said West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney. "We should have had this a long time ago and a lot of people in the industry have talked about it and we've talked about it, and the governor is finally taking it. He understands the significance of it I think, and I believe President Trump does too. He's been in New York predominantly all his life and not affiliated with the coal industry, and he's had a quick education about it all and understands the people living in New Jersey and New York depend upon a coal miner working in West Virginia or somewhere in Appalachia."

Justice says this plan could very well generate 300 million tons of coal production across Appalachia, especially in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. That's compared to the only 80 million tons being produced in West Virginia now.

He adds he realizes this is a big idea, but is confident that it can be done with President Trump's support.