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Coal — And The Way Forward

  • People in coal country are pleading for help as the coal industry nears the end of its long decline. This week on Inside Appalachia, we explore the economic and health impacts coal has had on communities in Appalachia. We’ll talk about the past and the future of this industry through the lens of its labor history to its future amid tough talks about the world’s climate crisis. And, we’ll meet a woman who entered the male-dominated coal industry. She tells us why she stayed, despite resistance from her family.Coal’s been in slow decline here for decades, but it’s been more noticeable in the last 10 years. That’s meant hard times for communities that have long relied on the industry for jobs and taxes. Coal mining jobs have dipped by 66 percent in West Virginia compared to their heyday 50 years ago — and experts don’t predict a comeback. But we’re not alone; other places around the world face similar dilemmas. We learn what people in West Germany did 50 years ago — - when coal executives and political leaders had to make tough decisions when it came to the future of coal, and their home.
  • Over the past 50 in West Virginia, jobs in coal mining have declined by 66 percent -- and experts don’t predict a comeback. But we’re not alone -- other industrial places around the world face similar dilemmas. As the last story in West Virginia Public Broadcasting's series about the state of coal in West Virginia, Roxy Todd spoke with some of the people who live in those places, to find out where we may be headed. She started in Germany 50 years ago - when coal executives and political leaders were forced to make tough decisions when it came to the future of coal, and their home.
  • Coal has been “king” for most of the last century in West Virginia and central Appalachia, but in recent years, global market forces, governmental regulations and alternative energy sources like natural gas have reduced its dominance.
  • Mountaineer has been generating electric power since Jimmy Carter was president. But due to changing environmental regulations and the competition from natural gas and renewable energy, time could be running out.
  • The UMWA has long been a staple in coal's long legacy — but with the industry declining, so has membership in the union. With uncertainties abound, UMWA leaders say they are looking to expand beyond representing miners.
  • The first female coal miner in America wasn’t legally hired until 1973. At that time, women made 57 cents to a dollar earned by men. The American labor force has come a long way since then but still has a ways to go to reach equality, especially for women of color. In 2020, women earned 82.3% of men’s annual salary.
  • “Currently the rate of advanced black lung is higher now than it was when they passed the Mine Safety Act in 1969. That's crazy."
  • Eighth graders in West Virginia are required to take West Virginia Studies, and coal has shaped many facets of our state’s economy and environment. But as employment in the industry continues to decline, how are teachers and students discussing coal in classrooms today?
  • From its mine wars history, to labor, ´´˜environment and education, the coal industry touches West Virginia across sectors. But as the world changes, what's the path forward for our state and its signature industry? This 9-part radio series from the newsroom of West Virginia Public Broadcasting takes a look.