ACOSTA, Pa. (KDKA) — The digging of a new coal mine in Somerset County was cause for President Donald Trump to predict the comeback of the beleaguered coal industry.
“A big opening of a brand new mine, it’s unheard of, for many, many years that hasn’t happened. They asked me if I’d go, I’m gonna try,” the president said.
Whether Trump makes it to the grand opening next week or not, his administration is citing the Somerset County mine as a justification for exiting the Paris accords and rolling back environmental regulations.
“President Trump can issue all the executive orders he wants, it’s not going to bring back the coal industry to pre-1950 era,” said George Jugovic, of PennFuture.
Environmentalists say the new mine will be an exception and not the rule, and that the coal industry as a whole will continue to decline because of stiff completion from natural gas.
“The fact is that gas, it’s not environmental regulation, right? We all know at this point in time it’s the low price of this surplus gas that we have beneath our feet that’s driving coal out of business,” said Jugovic.
The vast major of coal, thermal coal, is used in power plants to generate energy and has been in low demand for years, forcing the closure of mines and putting thousands of miners out of work.
At the Somerset County mine in Acosta, they’ll be extracting another kind coal called metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel and is in high demand in Europe and Asia.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “It’s worth about three times what thermal coal is?”
“I would say,” said Robert Bottegal, of Corsa Coal.
It’s good news for Somerset County. If demand stays high, Corsa Coal says it will consider opening new mines in this region.
But, still, metallurgical coal accounts for only 10 percent of the domestic output and is in limited supply, not enough, analysts agree, to lift the industry.