West Virginia Executive Spring 2017 - Page 48

WVE: What is the greatest challenge you see facing your industry right now? BR: Getting West Virginia competitive with the other coal- producing states by equalizing the taxes, laws and regulations with those states and the federal laws and regulations. We have the best coal and the best coal miners and managers in the world, and we can compete. The state’s archaic and out-of-step laws and regulations need to be changed so as to not tie our hands. WVE: How do you think the new state and national leadership will affect your industry? BR: We are already seeing the positive effects of President Donald Trump and his respect for the coal industry and our great coal miners. Having a president who speaks positively about our industry makes all the difference when compared to one who did nothing but speak negatively about the industry, which stifled investment and research. One man in the White House can make a huge difference because everything Obama did was by executive orders, administrative regulations and/or agency behavior, always without congressional authorization, consensus or agreement. Witness the signing of the Congressional Review Act that Congress quickly passed and Trump signed that nullified awful regulations put out in the last days of the Obama administration. Governor Jim Justice’s knowledge and experience with the coal industry will also be a positive note here in West Virginia. “I don’t have to manage them.” WVE: As a result of the 2016 elections, are you seeing an increase in optimism or continued uncertainty among your association members? BR: It has been much more positive since the election as it relates to the attitude toward coal from the highest levels of the federal government. This positive attitude is beneficial to the sustainment of operations as well as expanding and/or reopen- ing ones that had been shuttered over the past eight years. Our fingers are crossed that it has some longevity—for the benefit of our people and the state of West Virginia. WVE: Tell us about the major topics that were addressed in the 2017 legislative session that will directly affect your industry. BR: SB 687 was the major piece of legislation affecting the coal industry in the 2017 legislative session. That bill was pri- marily directed at bringing state environmental laws into confor- mance with federal laws, regulations and/or practices. It covered the Special Reclamation Fund, blasting procedures, plugging abandoned gas wells and narrative water quality standards on the environmental regulation side. The safety component in- cluded a consolidation of several boards and commissions that had similar responsibilities and a mandate to update regulations pertaining to diesel equipment used in underground mining. When fully implemented, these issues will enhance our ability to compete with other states on a more level field of regulation.  That’s the complete confidence you get from LDG. Larson Design Group’s experts have national experience and West Virginia roots. Trust your project to them so you can focus on more important things—like your weekend in the woods. Architects. Engineers. Surveyors. 46 WEST VIRGINIA EXECUTIVE