Study finds significant economic impact of mining in area

Posted March 12, 2015

Despite increased competition from natural gas as a fuel for electricity generation, and a planned closure of one mine in Greene County, a study released this week found that longwall mining continues to provide substantial employment and tax revenue to support Washington and Greene counties.

According to a study by the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh released Tuesday by Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, longwall mining is a driving economic force for Greene and Washington counties, providing substantial jobs and tax revenue to support the region.

Longwall mining is a specific type of underground mining used to extract coal and occurs only in Greene and Washington counties.

According to the study, longwall mining produces 33,733,448 of the 57,967,127 tons – or 58 percent – of the bituminous coal mined in the state every year and ranks Greene County third nationally in coal production.

Approximately 7,350 full and part-time jobs in Greene and Washington counties are provided by the longwall mining industry, making it the third largest employer in the region.

For each of those direct jobs, an additional 1.1 jobs are added indirectly in the counties, the study said.

John Pippy, chief executive officer of the coal alliance, said in a news release the latest study focuses on the local economic impact of coal.

“In 2014, we released a report that showed the multibillion dollar economic impact that coal has statewide. This new report draws the data down to the community level and shows the connections between the high quality of life in the region and the family-sustaining jobs provided by the industry,” Pippy said.

State Rep. Camera Bartolotta (R-Rostraver) noted longwall mining accounts for more than 13 percent of the gross domestic product of the two counties.

“This report demonstrates just how much this mining process provides in employment and taxes that drive the communities in my district,” added state Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Jefferson).

The study found the industry contributes $1.94 billion to the county’s economies; $535 million in labor income, $1.3 billion in property income and more than $81 million in indirect business taxes.

The presence of coal mining in the West Greene School District, “is critical to our existence,” said WGSD Superintendent Thelma Szarell, noting it funds programs and curriculum, as well as jobs for graduates.

“The construction of the new West Greene Elementary School would not be possible without adequate tax dollars and our local taxpayers would be burdened with higher taxes without the contribution from the mining industry to offset the rate.”

In June, Consol Energy Inc. dedicated its new mammoth Harvey mine near Sycamore in Greene County – the largest underground mine in North America – which combined the operations of Bailey and Enlow Fork mines.

But mining also took a hit from competition from natural gas as a fuel for electricity generation.

In August, Alpha Natural Resources said it would close it Emerald Mine in Waynesburg by the end of 2015 because of weak market conditions and the mine’s uncertain geological conditions. The company said it planned to transfer many of the miners to its Cumberland Mine.