ARC Report: Coal findings are nothing new

It is a good thing taxpayer money goes toward funding the Appalachian Regional Commission. Why, what would we do without a federal agency that, in January 2018, finally lets us know coal production has fallen in Appalachia by 45 percent, since 2005; and — brace yourselves — other Appalachian industries are affected both directly and indirectly by the decline in coal production and employment.

But the ARC is not done.

“We’re really excited about this study because it’s one of the first comprehensive ones that we’ve seen that looks at the impact of the changing coal economy along the supply chain,” Wendy Wasserman, communication and media relations director, said.

In fact, according to the report, “Displaced workers will need to seek alternative employment opportunities that may entail investments in formal education and training, and this takes both time and resources.”

But, “As the economic base suffers, state and local governments will see their capacity to fund education weaken as well.”

Among factors contributing to this state of affairs are a shift away from the use of coal, caused by “the decline in natural gas prices and increasing environmental concerns, along with the age of the capital stock …”

Note its use, being a federal agency, of the word “concerns,” rather than “regulations.” But the point is the same.

No one actually living in Appalachia has been unaware of these and many other points in the report for more than a decade now. We have been shouting it all from the hilltops, as it were.

And, by the way, to be fair the report is actually a collection of work done by West Virginia University and The University of Tennessee, for which the ARC paid handsomly. At least, in this case, those taxpayer dollars made their way back … to two more public institutions.

Is it too much to hope that the slapping of the name of a federal agency onto this document might bend a few more ears in Washington, D.C., that have not been bent by the wailing of those living through this; or that someone, somewhere might do more than simply shake their heads and say “What a shame?” Is it too much to hope, now that the ARC appears to be aware of the problem, someone outside our beautiful states might start looking for solutions?

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