In the past six months, over 900 Alabama coal miners have lost heir jobs as the result of a depressed coal market and the uncertainty created by a litany of new EPA regulations targeting the coal industry. For these hardworking men and women, coal mining is not just a job, it’s a path to financial security and a better quality of life for their family. Coal miners typically earn an annual salary with benefits totaling over $100,000 and this level of income cannot be replaced by similar jobs in other industries. The ripple effect caused by these layoffs will hurt the local economy in the communities these miners call home.
The coal industry has been under attack across the country by the Obama Administration and locally by a coalition of radical environmental groups. In 2013, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SECL), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Alabama Environmental Council (AEC), and GASP intervened in hearings held by the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) in a covert effort to fight against the use of coal for power generation. While these groups claimed their intervention was about utility rates, public records proved they were each being paid big bucks by the San Francisco based Energy Foundation to fight against low-cost traditional energy in an effort to advance more expensive renewable power sources.
In another front in the war on Alabama’s coal industry, Black Warrior Riverkeeper and SELC are litigating a case in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which if successful, will shutdown most of the state’s coal mines. The environmental groups claim the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erred when issuing permits required by the Clean Water Act for 41 mining operations. In spite of their arguments being rejected by a federal district judge multiple times, the anti-coal groups refuse to drop their lawsuit. For these radical environmentalists, the prospect of shutting down 41 mining operations in one fell swoop is too great of a victory for them to concede.
While this small but vocal cadre of environmental activists might consider the woes of Alabama’s coal industry a victory, it is anything but that for the affected miners and their families. It’s hard to imagine the angst these recently laid-off miners are feeling as a result of losing their livelihood. The “War on Coal” is not a political or philosophical debate, it’s a man-made catastrophe. At it’s core is a lack of empathy for these hardworking men and women trying to provide a better life for their families.
With Christmas just around the corner, a Go Fund Me account has been established by Stephanie Tingle, to help the families of miners who’ve lost their job purchase Christmas presents for their children. Tingle, whose husband recently lost his mining job, exemplifies the kindness and compassion that exists in tight-knit coal mining communities by focusing her attention on the well-being of others impacted by the layoffs, rather than her own.
Please consider making a donation to help these families have a good Christmas this year and ask your co-workers, family, and friends to support them as well.