(a) Legislative findings. --
(1) In the past six years, West Virginia's coal industry has been battered by constant judicial and regulatory assaults, which have disproportionately raised the cost of mining coal in West Virginia compared with production costs in other coal producing states. These increased costs of production have caused West Virginia coal to become uncompetitive with other coals in the declining worldwide and domestic coal markets.
(2) Coal production in West Virginia has fallen from one hundred sixty-five million tons in 2008 to approximately one hundred fifteen million tons in 2014, a decline of thirty-one percent. Much of this decline has been concentrated in the southern coalfields.
(3) The number of active mines producing coal has decreased by more than fifty-three percent, from two hundred fifty-nine in 2008 to just one hundred twenty-one today.
(4) During that same period, direct coal mining employment has decreased by approximately four thousand jobs, from a high of twenty-two thousand three hundred thirty-six in 2011 to just eighteen thousand two hundred today, a decline of nineteen percent.
(5) When the coal-related jobs multiplier, established by the West Virginia University and Marshall University Colleges of Business, 2010 Joint Economic Impact Report, is factored in the total direct and indirect jobs impact on the West Virginia economy shows a twenty thousand six hundred eighty-job decline in mining and mine-dependent employment in the state from one hundred thousand eleven six hundred eighty in 2011 to ninety-one thousand today. The impact of this damage to the West Virginia economy is demonstrated by the rapid rise of unemployment in the coalfields with some counties now reporting an unemployment rate of more than ten percent.
(6) The economic stress to the coal industry and to the state as a whole is evident in the estimated loss of nearly $300 million in direct mining wages paid since 2011. This loss is exponentially higher when you factor in indirect wages lost as mining support jobs decline.
(7) As a direct result of the damage to the coal industry, West Virginia has also lost significant tax revenues, as coal severance taxes have declined by approximately twenty-four percent in just the past two years – from a high of $527 million in 2012 to an estimated $406 million in 2014. This damage reverberates through the total economy, with reductions in money available to fund schools, highways, basic services and health care – needs that increase when income and health care is lost with the loss of jobs.
(8) All of these challenges must be addressed and overcome if we are to continue to provide the economic foundation for our state's economy. The encouragement of economic growth and development in the coal industry in this state is in the public interest and promotes the general welfare of the people of this state.
(b) Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015. -- Therefore, in order to encourage the recovery of the West Virginia coal industry and to increase direct and indirect employment thus created, the Legislature enacts the Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015 and it is collectively comprised of:
(1) This section;
(2) The amendments to:
(A) Sections thirteen and nineteen, article three, chapter twenty-two of this code;
(B) Sections six and eight, article eleven, chapter twenty-two of this code;
(C) Section one, article one-a of this chapter;
(D) Sections six, twenty-eight and thirty-seven, article two of this chapter;
(E) Section one hundred one, article two-a, chapter twenty-two-a of this code; and
(F) Sections three hundred one, three hundred eight, three hundred nine, three hundred ten, four hundred two, four hundred three, four hundred four, four hundred five, five hundred one, six hundred one, six hundred two, six hundred three and six hundred four, article two-a of this chapter; and
(3) The following new sections:
(A) Section twenty-two-a, article eleven, chapter twenty-two of this code; and
(B) Section two hundred four-a, article two-a of this chapter that were adopted and enacted during the 2015 Regular Session of the Legislature.