ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio — Frank Stupak got his start in the coal business just as it was beginning its steep decline, and while there’s little chance the industry will ever return to its glory days, the 27-year-old safety manager isn’t giving up hope.
“We know what our industry did for this country. Hopefully someday we’ll get back there,” he said while deep inside an Ohio County Coal Company mine along the Ohio-West Virginia border, coal dust filling the air around him and the sound of machinery nearly drowning out his voice.
Mr. Stupak came to work for the Ohio County Coal Company — a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest coal-mining operation — after briefly attending college but deciding “it wasn’t really my thing.”
To some, his career choice may seem foolish.
The industry is losing jobs at a rapid pace, the result of both Obama administration environmental regulations and the rise of cheaper, cleaner natural gas, an increasingly appealing option for utilities.
Murray Energy Corp. — led by its tough-talking, often-inflammatory CEO, Robert Murray — hasn’t been immune. The company shed more than 1,400 jobs earlier this year. It now counts among its ranks roughly 7,000 employees, though the company has done relatively well compared to the industry as a whole.
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