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Coal Outside Appalachia



I write a lot about coal here and one thing that repeatedly strikes me is how Appalachian-centric writing about coal remains today. There are of course historical reasons for this, but given how sharply production has shifted out of West Virginia and Kentucky over the last couple decades, public attention has really lagged. Here’s a couple of stories about coal in other parts of the country.

First is this Times exposé of the complete disaster of a clean coal plant in Mississippi that has suffered from its first moments from everyone involved having incentives to slow down the work so they can maximize govenrment money and because all the financial risks were shifted to the state’s taxpayers. From the get-go, it was a complete disaster. The silver lining here might be that finally policymakers give up on the idea that clean coal can be a thing. Because it can’t.

Meanwhile, story after story about the decline of coal in West Virginia talks about the transition of the industry to the West, especially Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, but hardly any stories actually follow the industry out there to examine its impact. This High Country News story details how coal jobs have rapidly declined in the West, really hurting towns relying on it and with no safety net. The latter point is typically of a whole history of the West’s boom and bust natural resource economies, with the remains of once prosperous mining towns scattered around the region.

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