Virginia Gov. John Dalton declared a state of emergency yesterday to keep order in the coal mines and Maryland Acting Gov. Blair Lee III ordered a 30 percent power cut in western Maryland as the coal strike began to hit home in this region.
In Richmond, Dalton ordered a doubling of state policemen in six south-west mining region counties and ordered standby alert status for "several hundred" National Guardsmen, but would not say how many.
"We are intent on seeing to it that if anyone desires to move coal, he will be protected . . . If there are those who are going to come around and intimidate pople, we'll have to see to it they are arrested," Dalton warned.
At least 50 extra state troopers are already in Wise County, according to Chief Deputy Sheriff Bill Kelley.
Sporadic rock-throwing incidents and road strewn with nails have made the owners of nonunion coal mines nervous. "More coal, a lot more coal, will be produced in Virginia if we get mere state police," said H. A. Street, secretary of United Coal Cos. in Buchanan County, where 50 percent of the state's coal is mined, half of it nonunion.
Millionaire Jim Brown took a half a dozen members of a motorcycle gang, the Fugueros, to ride armed in the trucks carrying coal out of Brown's nonunion Paramount Mining Corp. at Norton, Va.
"My philosophy is that the meaner the pickets are, the meaner the extra drivers are," Brown said. "They get meaner pickets, I get meaner drivers."
Wearing boots, dungarees, black leather jackets and chain belts, the riders have, by their mere presence all but halted the tire-slashing and rock-throwing that casued several drivers to quit earlier, Brown said. Loading his shotgun, rider Dave Martin, 24, told United Press International he was not afraid.
"Naw, I ain't scared. If they shoot at us, we'll shoot at them." he said.
Dalton told a packed news conference in Richmond that "The situation threatens to become progressively worse. Unless preventive action is taken, there may be serious unemployment and threats to the health and safety of many citizens of the commonwealth." His measures were among the strongest so far taken by any governor involved in the three month coal strike.
Although metropolitan Washington jobs and homes have escaped the lay-offs and power cuts associated with the strike in western Maryland and northwestern Virginia, area electric bills will still feel the impact. It is costing everyone money to save what coal there is.
The miners, meanwhile, insisted they would hold out.
"The strike has hurt everyone but we'll get through it. We have before," said Louise Fraley, owner of Fuller's Department Store in the town of Apalachia. Business is down 30 to 50 per cent, she said, because no one can afford to buy much.
About 250 United Mine Workers union local leaders voted in Castlewood, Va., Monday night to ask President Carter to seize the coal mines. District 28 president Ray Marshall said after the meeting that the miners "feel they would get a fair shake" from federally-run contract negotiations, once officials take a look at mine owners' books.
Anticipating the need for economic recovery, Dalton asked the General Assembly to petition President Carter for a year's suspension of new laws on surface mining "to allow to coal industry and electric untilities to recover from the coal strike."
The laws, aimed at reclaiming the curtail strip mining, which now accounts for 20 percent of Virginia coal production.
Similarly, in Maryland Lee received power to suspend air pollution laws in a presidential declaration of energy emergency made at the acting governor's request. "We will use it minimally, only when absolutely needed," Lee said. The idea would be extend coal supplies by allowing the burning of low-grade coal that ordinarily can't be used.
One request that the burning of low-grade coal be allowed came from Kelly-Springfield Co. in Cumberland, where 330 of the tiremaker's 2,000 workers were laid off yesterday. Spokesman Kenneth Jackson said the plant's output was down 40 percent as a result of the mandatory 30 percent power use cut that Lee ordered into effect early yesterday for industries in western Maryland.
At Fairchild Industries in Hagerstown, 33 workers were to be laid off today as the aircraft manufacturer put all its 1,850 laborers on one shift. Production of the $5 million A-10 Air Force Jets will be slowed by about 10 percent, spokesman Theron Rinehart said. The plant makes six planes a month.
Many businesses were cutting back electricity use in every conceivable way to avoid laying off workers. At the Mack truck plant in Hagerstown, where 4,200 people work, high-energy machines that make engines and transmissions, such as gear cutters and engine lathes, are being shut down periodically, spokeman Dave Cole said. "We have no problem at this time but we'll check it weekly," he said.
The Westvaco paper company in Luke, in Allegany County, Maryland with 2,000 workers, produces two thirds of its power itself and has its own coal stockpile. "No, everything's not fine, but we're bearing up." said company spokesman Harris LeFew. Full production will continue until additional power cuts are ordered, he said.
The Frederick County school system which is under a 20 percent cutback order, has been operating with partially darkened hallways and reduced night schedules since last week, while the 23,000 students get bag lunches and disposable plates to save on electric stove and dishwasher use. Assistant Superintendent John Trit said further cuts would begin Friday, but schools will not reduce class schedules unless the situation worsens, he added.
John McCardell, executive vice president of Potomac Edison Co., the region's hardest-hit utility, said the situation could get worse. Potomac Edison industrial and commerical customers are effected by the mandatory cutbacks.
"Our plan would have called for doing (the cutback) sooner, McCardell said. To serve its 240,000 customers in western Maryland and nearby Virginia and West Virginia counties, the company has only 20 days' supply of coal left. It is buying half its needs from the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Maryland electric power grid, however, and that will stretch the supply to a 40-day total. "The resolution of this is out of our control," he said.
Voluntary cutbacks for residential customers, who are not effected by any of the orders, have been in effect for the last two weeks in Potomac Edison's service area. Dalton said at his news conference that further power reductions for industries would not make sense unless Pennsylvania also asked for cutbacks. Pennsylvania is tied into the same power grid.
"If every state does what I'm doing today, there is no question that we should be able to get coal out of the ground and keep the country running," Dalton said.
He noted that the purchased power was costing potomac Edison 5 cents or more per kilowatt hour, compared to the 1 cent it costs the company to produce it won power. Ratepayer will see what that means when they get their bills, he said, adding that they will be "not five times as much higher, but substantially higher."
Electric bill for customers of Potomac Electric Power Co. and Virginia Electric Power Co. also rising because of the coal strike, even though there has been no direct impact on the areas those two utilities serve.
To save what coal they have, the utilities are burning more oil and moving the coal around to get the most out of it. Pepco spokesman John Grasser said coal piled up at the Chalk Point plant, for example, has been moved to the more efficient Dickerson plant, while two coal-burning units at the potomac River plant were shut down and oil-burning units at Morgantown were opened up.
The aim, he said - is to stretch the available coal in mid-May, "but the power the coal unit would have been generating has to be picked up somewhere else that's more expensive."
At Morgantown alone, where oil burning now supplies 60 percent of the power instead of the usual 20 to 25 percent, the additional fuel bill is $1.15 million per month, and the average customer's March bill will rise at least 80 cents on an 800 kilowatt-hour use level for every month the situation continues, Grasser said.
A typical user of 800 Kilowatts an hour might live in a row house that has gas heat.
Similary, for Vepco customers in Virginia and corners of West Virginia changes in the cost of fuel mean that March bills will increase over those sent out inFebruary.
A typical Northern Virginia customer, who uses 1,100 kilowatt hours a month, would discover that his or her bill would be up by about $1.10.
Both utilities have been supplying power to the grid that is feeding Potomac Edison its emergency power rations, but the spokesmen insisted that the increased output does not cost their regular customers one extra cent. In fact, they said, the utilities make money on the deal at the expense ofPotomac Edison rate payers.