As Companies Warn of More Layoffs, Lawmakers Look to Employment Training Programs

By Brian Sewell

Two Appalachian coal companies warned nearly 1,500 West Virginia employees that layoffs are likely this fall, underscoring the dire need for other job opportunities in central Appalachia.

On July 31, Alpha Natural Resources issued a 60-day notice to 1,100 employees at 11 surface mines and associated operations that could be idled by mid-October. In early September, Patriot Coal put 360 employees on notice at a surface mining complex in Boone County.

Several elected leaders responded to the news by promising to combat the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while others are considering different options. E&E News reported on Sept. 12 that representatives David McKinley (R-W.Va.), one of the most pro-coal members of Congress, and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) were working together to craft legislation that would pay laid-off coal workers to participate in workforce training.

In the past two years, the U.S. Department of Labor has granted WorkForce West Virginia $7.4 million in National Emergency Grant funds to train displaced miners. The program provides up to $5,000 to individuals for occupational skills training aimed at fostering long-term reemployment.

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