Report shows coal production was up in 2008
Coal association director takes issue with results
Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — Surface mines accounted for 76 percent of the coal produced in Maryland in 2008, according to the 87th Annual Report of the Maryland Bureau of Mines, a document the agency is required to publish to comply with state law.
Allegany County operations accounted for 1,217,805 tons of coal mined from the surface. Another 1,112,086 tons were produced in Garrett County.
Deep mines, all in Garrett County, pumped out 718,652 tons.
The coal production in Maryland’s two westernmost counties was up 619,961 tons from 2007, when 2,428,583 tons were mined.
The problem with the bureau’s report, according to Adrienne Ottaviani, executive director of the Maryland Coal Association, is that it is already a year old.
“Those are 2008 numbers and things have changed a lot since then,” Ottaviani said Wednesday.
Coal production is down and jobs have been lost, Ottaviani claims, blaming federal regulators within the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Surface Mining.
“Permits are being held up based upon a multitude of different issues, including the construction of high walls and ground control plans,” she said.
“Between the federal government believing that there is really such a thing as global warming and thinking coal is the culprit, this is not really the season for coal,” Ottaviani said. “They are doing everything they can to stop coal as an energy source. Companies can’t continue to produce coal (as profitably) under the regulations they have.”
Green sources of energy, Ottaviani said, are wonderful, but will never be able to replace the $50,000 to $60,000 per year jobs and fringe benefits generated by coal mining.
Ottaviani said there were 1,300 direct jobs in the Maryland coal mining industry in 2008, but that number has dwindled.
“One problem happened when AES Warrior Run had internal mechanical problems and wasn’t buying and burning our coal for a while. Companies had to lay people off. Fortunately, AES got that worked out and is buying local coal again.”
Ottaviani said AES is the shining example of how coal can be burned with low emissions. “They have the lowest emission level in the state and one of the lowest in the country,” she said. “I have been trying for years to get other power plants to retrofit or consider new construction to achieve those same emission rates.”
The annual report from the state mining agency points out as well that the bureau’s Acid Mine Drainage Section in 2008 spent $32,345 to modify the lime-dosing apparatus at the abandoned McDonald Mine where acid drainage continues to pollute lower Georges Creek.
Another $394,500 was spent on the Aaron Run project, a tributary to the lower Savage River that is being restored with the hope that it will once again be the home to native brook trout.