Proposal to Help Threatened Coal Refuse Industry

NESQUEHONING, Pa. -- Lawmakers in our area from both sides of the aisle are coming together to try to keep an energy industry above water.

State senators are asking for help to save the coal refuse industry.

The Panther Creek Energy facility in Nesquehoning is just one of several coal refuse processing centers in Pennsylvania struggling to meet operating costs.

Lawmakers are pushing for government help to keep them running because of the jobs they provide and the positive impact the centers have in our area.

It's quiet inside the Panther Creek Energy facility in Nesquehoning, but workers tell us they wish the boilers were full and the byways were filled with workers turning coal mine waste into electricity.

"It's the way it should be. It shouldn't be what you saw out there today, just a pile of iron sitting there idle," said plant manager John Burzynski.

Some lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in our area agree. That's why they are proposing an increase and extension for the state's Coal Refuse Energy and Reclamation tax credit.

"Because plants like this all across Pennsylvania have done a lot of good. They've created a lot of jobs. They cleaned up the environment. They've created a lot of energy and they're threatened. That's why they need assistance," said State Senator Dave Argall, (R), 29th District.

The credit is currently at $10 million a year through 2026, but it's not enough to keep the plants running part-time, let alone full-time to compete with the natural gas industry. Legislators want to increase it to $45 million and extend it through 2036.

"It's important when you're talking about 3,600 jobs in Pennsylvania, when you're talking about good-paying energy jobs, making sure that we keep them in northeastern Pennsylvania, and making sure that we get all the environmental benefits out of the coal refuse industry which is tremendous," said State Senator John Yudichak, (D),14th District.

Legislators believe if they are successful, plants like this in Carbon County will be able to work full-time turning coal industry waste into energy and restoring the landscapes in places like Swoyersville to the way they were before the industrial revolution.

Workers like John Burzynski say they have pride in what they do here and this push gives them hope that they'll be able to continue.

"It's a shot in the arm. It's a survival where we're waiting for something to turn around," Burzynski said.

Senators Argall and Yudichak are now hoping more senators will sign on to support it. Their goal is to be a part of next year's budget conversation and to start this new tax credit at the beginning of the 2019-2020 fiscal year this summer.

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