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Old king coal


The rock that powered Appalachia’s economy for more than a century is crumbling by Mason Adams


n late October, Appalachian Power President Charles Patton made headlines in West Virginia when he told a summit of energy executives that coal isn’t coming back, even if federal rules on power plants get rolled back.

Sure, that may be conventional wisdom in much of the country, but this speech came from the president and COO of Central Appalachia’s biggest electric utility. Appalachian Power has relied on coal as its dominant source of generation since its inception in 1911. Two weeks later, as Patton walked into Appalachian Power’s offices in Roanoke — his newsmaking remarks



were delivered in the West Virginia community of the same name — he acknowledged that his remarks were not what the room wanted to hear. After all, the economy in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia was built around coal mining, and many still fervently hope that a coal comeback will fuel a new round of economic prosperity.

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