There are many possible ways for the West Virginia economy to adapt to a national landscape where regulations on climate and the coal industry are inevitable; some of the most attractive choices may involve developing wind and other renewable energy sources to their full potential in the stae. However, even if you assume that coal must continue to play an important role in the economy of West Virginia, there is at least one great way to generate more jobs from coal mining even while reducing overall mining activity and helping the environment. Right now, many coal mines in West Virginia and nearby part of the country are mountaintop removal mines, where the tops of mountains are literally blasted away to expose coal seams underneath. Mountaintop removal is hugely destructive to the environment, pollutes surrounding communities with mining waste, and reduces the number of workers needed at a given mine. It takes a lot fewer laborers to lay the dynamite and power heavy machinery in a mountaintop removal mine than would be needed for other types of mining operations. By banning mountaintop removal coal mining, West Virginia could force coal companies to mine in ways that are not quite so harmful to the environment, and which employ more people. In this way, the state could ensure the continuation of coal mining jobs even as the overall amount of coal mined in West Virginia begins to go down.
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