Two coal companies downsize
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Two area coal companies announced layoffs Friday, saying weakened coal demand and an aggressive regulatory structure forced the idling of several mines.
PBS Coals Inc. and its affiliate company, RoxCoal Inc., laid off about 225 workers as part of an immediate idling of some deep and surface mines in Somerset County. The company now employs 795 workers.
In a statement, PBS President and CEO D. Lynn Shanks said foreign and domestic markets were seeing softened demand for coal.
"Additionally, the escalating costs and uncertainty generated by recently advanced EPA regulations and interpretations have created a challenging business climate for the entire coal industry," he said in the statement.
The other Friday idling announcement, coming from the Ohio Valley Coal Co. of Alledonia, Ohio, also criticized costly government regulations, though in much harsher terms.
Announcing the reduction of 29 jobs at its Powhatan No. 6 Mine in Belmont County, Ohio, General Manager Ronald Koontz attacked the Obama administration for a "'war on coal seeking to destroy the coal industry and the jobs of our own employees and the livelihoods of their families."
In addition to weakened demand brought on by a warm winter, the coal industry has seen intense competition from the natural gas industry.
The Environmental Information Agency's latest report showed natural gas, with its depressed prices, nearly edging coal in electricity production, the first time the two energy sources have been so close since the agency began collecting data several decades ago.
"Unfortunately, for us, this is just the beginning of workforce reductions," said Mr. Koontz in his statement.
First Published July 21, 2012 12:00 am