Arch Coal, Inc. announced 117 layoffs which went into effect Dec. 2.
Knott County Judge Executive Randy Thompson said that it is more than just the counties people are working in that are affected. He said he believes they need to pull together as a region to make a difference in the future of jobs for eastern Kentucky.
“It has a devastating affect and I think we are going to see more of this and it scares me because of the over reaching regulations and the current administrations of the E.P.A.,” said Thompson.
County officials said the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules are not allowing coal companies to get permits and now the companies are starting to see the effects. Thompson said he wants to make sure that mining is done legally and safely, but a lot of the regulations have gotten out of hand.
“There’s going to be a lot of miners out of work in the next year due to the E.P.A.,” said Perry County Judge Executive Denny Ray Noble.
Noble said that if there are no permits granted than the companies cannot mine the coal which means they would not have a need for employees such as miners or drivers.
A statement was sent from Kim Link, a spokeswoman for Arch Coal, Inc. which read:
“Due to near-term weakness in steam coal markets, four of our Kentucky operations eliminated a total of 117 positions in recent weeks. This small workforce reduction was difficult yet necessary to match our production with our customers’ requirements.”
There were 37 layoffs in Perry County, 42 in Knott County, 33 in Breathitt County and five in Pike County.
Noble said that ripple affect is what will hurt the region.
“The spin off on that is what is going to affect a lot more people, if 200 are laid off it will affect 300 or more,” said Noble.
“When you lose the coal industry that affects the Perry County Fiscal Court and these other county courts and then we have to lay people off because of the coal severance money that comes in.”
Link said that laid off miners were offered severance packages and mine personnel are working with other arch operations and state employment agencies to help affected employees with job opportunities.
Both Noble and Thompson said that they do not see the problem getting any better in the near future.
“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Thompson.
“Many people thought the coal companies were crying wolf with these E.P.A. regulations and now they are starting to see the real affects.”
Thompson said it is up to the people of the region to contact legislators in Washington D.C. to let them know that the people of Appalachia want to mine coal in a responsible manner, but do not want to let the economy suffer because of a hostile E.P.A.